Bonhoeffer explores costly grace compared to cheap grace. He states that Luther brought costly grace back to the church. Luther, “When he spoke of grace, always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ. Only so could he speak of grace”.
After the reformation the church forgot the corollary of obedience. Grace became data (or information) without being formation into disciples. Grace became the destination without a journey of becoming like Jesus. “I am saved so why bother to do anything?”
Bonhoeffer dissects this kind of thinking,
“If grace is God’s answer, the gift of Christian life, then we cannot for a moment dispense with following Christ. But if grace is the data for my Christian life, it means that I set out to live the Christian life in the world with all my sins justified beforehand. I can go and sin as much as I like, and rely on this grace to forgive me, for after all the world is justified in principle by grace. I can therefore cling to my bourgeois secular existence, and remain as I was before, but with the added assurance that the grace of God will cover me. It is under the influence of this kind of ‘grace’ that the world has been made ‘Christian,’ but at the cost of secularizing the Christian religion as never before. The antithesis between the Christian life and the life of bourgeois respectability is at an end. The Christian life comes to mean nothing more than living in the world and as the world, in being no different from the world, in fact, in being prohibited from being different from the world for the sake of grace.“
It is very sobering for me to ask how my bourgeois lifestyle is, in actual fact, interrogated by the rhythms of Jesus. If I have nothing that is interrogated might it be a sign that I’m living in the narrative of cheap grace?
In this part of the chapter Bonhoeffer makes a very useful distinction between what he calls grace as data and grace as the answer to the sum. He quotes Faust to illustrate this. Faust said that, “I now do see that we can do nothing new”. DB says that there is a vast difference between Faust’s statement made after a lifelong search for knowledge and a first year student making the same statement before studying for one exam.
Then DB makes the radical claim that,
“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace. But those who try to use this grace as a dispensation from following Christ are simply deceiving themselves.”
Grace is not the ending but the beginning and sustenance of a life of following Jesus.