Pay the Cost and Live

I started reading Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, which I got from my sister for Christmas. I simply wanted to share a quotation this evening. I had never read Bonhoeffer before tonight, and simply reading a short biographical sketch about the man and the introduction to his book has already greatly challenged me. So, without further ado, here is the quotation.

In the modern world, it seems so difficult to walk with absolute certainty in the narrow way of ecclesiastical decision and yet remain in the broad open spaces of the universal love of Christ, of the patience, mercy, and “philanthropy” of God (Titus 3:4) for the weak and ungodly. Yet somehow or other we must combine the two, or else we shall follow the paths of men. May God grant us joy as we strive earnestly to follow the way of discipleship. May we be enabled to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28 ff).

As I have been wrestling under the weight of the apparent severity of recent events in our country and world, I have been praying and seeking the posture a Christian ought to assume. In reading a few details from the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I believe that I will have much to learn from the man. It seems that he will be quite the model to immulate.

I know some of my readers may ask, “What about Christ? Or even another biblical figure like Paul? Why not follow either of their lead?” Of course, I would never seek an example or role model who did not himself (or herself) follow the example of our Savior. I do not seek a replacement for the One who died for me and who, after rising again, now lives within me.

Rather, I hope to survey the life and wisdom of another who seemed to have grasped the meaning of following our Lord amidst some of the most tragic circumstances one could ever experience: his church lost its way and his government become absolutely evil.

I see certain parallels, albeit imperfect ones, between his situation and that of the United States. Many of our institutions (including the church) appear to be losing their way, and while the situation is not nearly as dire as that of Germany under National Socialism, I fear we would be imbecilic to believe we could never tumble into similar depths.

I sense a parictular spirit within the writing and life of Bonhoeffer that would seem to cut the necessary balance between the dangerous extremes to which our country, and even our church, has retreated. I believe that, especially for the church, we must find a way to “combine the two” or else succumb to walking in the familiar yet lethal footsteps of our ancestors.

I pray the church would learn to pay the cost of disicipleship and live.

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