“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
I wonder if you’ve heard of this very significant figure?
Born in 1906, Bonhoeffer was a theologian and church leader in Germany
When Hitler came to power in 1933, Bonhoeffer became a leading spokesman for the Confessing Church. The Confessing church in Germany were a group who saw Hitler and the Nazis as dangerous and at completer odds with the teaching of Jesus
He organized and for a time led the underground college of the Confessing Church, training church leaders. Although he originally believed that Christians should always obey the laws of the land they live in, he came to believe that to do so was sometimes the right choice—when governments were so unjust and evil—they had to be opposed.
In 1939 his brother-in-law introduced him to a group planning the overthrow of Hitler, and he made significant contributions to their work. After several years helping the Jews and resisting the Nazis he was arrested in April 1943 and imprisoned in Berlin. After the failure of the attempt on Hitler's life in April 1944, he was sent to a severe prison camp.
His life was spared at first, because he had a relative who stood high in the government; but then this relative was himself implicated in anti-Nazi plots. On Sunday 8 April 1945, he had just finished conducting a service of worship in the prison, when two soldiers came in, saying, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, make ready and come with us,"
This was the standard summons to a condemned prisoner.
As he left, he said to another prisoner, "This is the end -- but for me, the beginning -- of life." He was hanged the next day, less than a week before the Allies reached the prison camp
He never compromised his faith in God—he was truly distinctive. Standing against the Nazi’s and their hatred even to the point of giving his life.
A few years before he was executed he wrote what’s been his most widely read work—’The Cost of Discipleship.’
I wonder when he wrote that book if he had even an inkling of what the cost might mean for him?
Like many Christians today, Bonhoeffer understood that we are all disciples, we’re all apprentices, learners, following Jesus. We may have different roles and different gifts, but Jesus calls us all to be a disciple.
In his book, ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ Bonhoeffer writes about how we should be distinctive, how we should be salt and light, bringing out the taste of a fully human life and illuminating the darkness with the light of Christ.
Bonhoeffer talks a great deal about a word which takes on a specific meaning for the Christian—that word is grace. And grace is the unconditional love God has for us. Grace is love which cannot be earned, only received as a gift
Grace is most clearly seen on the cross, where Jesus died, where he paid the price so that we don’t have to. Grace is what God offers to us as a gift—and we receive that gift when we choose to follow Jesus.
Bonhoeffer writes about something he calls cheap grace: Here’s a quote from his book:
‘Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church community, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Bonhoeffer, writing more than 70 years ago said that so many Christians understand that God loves them, that Jesus died and rose again for them, but that it doesn’t seem to make a difference to their lives.
Grace, the love God has for us, should be transformative. If it’s not then it doesn’t change anything—it’s cheap.
In comparison, we have costly grace—which is actually what we find in the pages of the Bible and in fact on the lips of Jesus when he calls people to let go of all that holds them back and to follow him.
Grace, he says, should be costly—it cost the very life of God’s own son. It’s not something we should take for granted but rather it’s something to be treasured and responded to.’
He makes the point that :
when Jesus called his disciples, it meant that faith “can no longer mean sitting still and waiting — they must rise and follow him. ‘
So what does it mean for us?
Well, in essence it’s understanding that we’ve been blessed by God to be a blessing to others; that a Christian life is lived distinctively for the good of others. We may not be called to give our lives as Bonhoeffer did, but we are called to make a difference in the places we are.
· If someone was to accuse you of being a Christian, what evidence might your life give?
· What can you do to live more distinctively to be bringer of peace and hope in your life?
· What can our church do to show God’s grace more clearly?
See www.thisisdiscipleship.org.uk for more about following Jesus today