As a child there was nothing more exciting than having my grandma share a piece of her gum. She preferred the Wrigley gums, Big Red and Doublemint more than any others. She never gave a full piece to me, just a half of the stick, but I savored it all the same. As I grew older I would buy my own gum at the candy store in my neighborhood. I was not picky about the kind of gum I had, I just wanted to have gum. The cheaper gum’s flavor and elasticity would not last as long as the gum my grandma gave me. It eventually became difficult to chew and the taste would become bitter.
When I talk with friends and family who try to tell me that it doesn’t matter the way to Heaven, that there are many ways to get there, I think of the cheap gum. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about cheap versus costly in his book, The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer said that when it came to grace there were two kinds, cheap grace and costly grace. He described it this way:
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 (bold mine).
As to costly grace, it was evident that there was indeed a hefty price tag attached to it. It was the cost of Jesus on the Cross, the cost of God’s only Son for our bedraggled, broken, sin-filled souls.
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 cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us (bold mine).
If we are just looking for anything to fill our hands and heart for a time, then by all means, let us continue to buy into the beliefs that say we can discipline ourselves, make ourselves holy, remove our own sins. If we are seeking the soul-quenching, heart-healing, eternal-life giving grace God has offered us, then we need to realize we cannot access Heaven on our own. It requires Jesus. It requires the Cross. It requires death. And death is never pretty.