Monday, September 11, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter One

1.  The book begins with a touching, yet powerful, “Memoir” by G. Leibholz on pages 13-33.  Based on his recollections:

- What kind of man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
- What was of utmost importance to Bonhoeffer?
- How did Bonhoeffer ultimately succeed both in life and in death?

2.  On page 37 of his introduction, Bonhoeffer writes, “The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it.  But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”

- What does Bonhoeffer mean here? 
- How have you experienced this truth for yourself?

3.  Bonhoeffer begins chapter one with this overarching thesis: “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.  We are fighting to-day for costly grace.”  He uses the rest of the chapter to unpack this initial statement.

- Differentiate the meaning of cheap grace from costly grace.

4.  On page 44, he writes: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow upon ourselves.  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.”

- Is this who we are as the church today?

5.  Also on page 44, “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.”

- How has the truth of these two statements impacted your role as a Christian and your choices on behalf of your faith?

6.  Bonhoeffer’s critique continues on pages 53-53: “We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ.”  “The result was that a nation became Christian and Lutherans, but at the cost of true discipleship. The price it was called upon to pay was all too cheap. Cheap grace had won the day.”  He goes on, “We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition.  Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving.  We poured forth unending streams of grace.  But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.”

- In light of Bonhoeffer’s assessment, how are we faring today?

7.  On page 55: “We confess that, although our Church is orthodox as far as her doctrine of grace is concerned, we are no longer sure that we are members of a Church which follows its Lord.  We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relation between grace and discipleship.  The issue can no longer be evaded.  It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?”

- How do you respond to this closing question?

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