It Doesn't Get "Better".
It is no secret that many people are confused or even outright frightened by what they see happening in the world around them. Whether it is natural disasters, global viruses, or morally inept politicians, there seems to be no shortage of things that go bump in the night.
Outside the Church, society is desperate to find a balance between freedom and moral obligation yet, it seems, for every step forward, it takes two steps back. Outside the Church people ask each other how violence, racism, and blatant disregard for the value of a human life could be so rampant. They want peace; now. They want justice; now. They want liberty; now.
Much of this perspective has also infiltrated the hearts of those within Church. Honest Christians grab their signs, share their frustrations, and demand justice, liberty, and peace. Today many of the people both inside and outside the Church are waving the same banner and demanding the same things.
Bonhoeffer offers these words in Cost of Discipleship:
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost!
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods…
Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it costs God the life of His Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs…
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906-April 9, 1945)
Saints in Christ, real peace; real liberty; real justice…real grace cannot be created, enforced, or sustained by anyone but our Lord. The plain reality that we must contend with is this: if the Bible is true, the world does not get better. It does not find peace, liberty, or justice before our Lord returns.
No matter who runs the governments of our world, no matter how the laws are enforced, no matter how many miles we travel for the sake of social justice, it is unattainable without the Cross. The world continues to separate itself from Christ and in doing so, separates itself from all things it claims to seek. This is because a world apart from Christ does not truly seek peace, but seeks to worship itself.
We must not fall into the trap of the enemy by allowing him to convince the Church that we are on the same side as the world; we are not, and our paths are diverging rapidly. Because this is true, our cause is not to redeem a world that has fallen, but to shine brightly in the midst of the inevitable collapse so that the true source of all good things would be lifted high.