Wednesday, September 20, 2017
The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
1. This chapter explores the call to discipleship. Bonhoeffer uses Mark 2:14 as the backdrop for his discussion. He begins (page 57):
“The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience. The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience?” Bonhoeffer answers, “It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once.”
- How does Bonhoeffer defend this underlying premise?
- In your own words, how do you understand the truth of this?
2. Next, Bonhoeffer turns to Luke 9:57-62, where three men engage Jesus, but face conditional circumstances (page 60). He provides a thorough discussion of each of these encounters. Bonhoeffer states, “The first step places the disciple in the situation where faith is possible. If he refuses to follow and stays behind, he does not learn how to believe. He who is called must go out of his situation in which he cannot believe, into the situation in which, first and foremost, faith is possible.”
- What does it mean to “go out of a (current) situation and into a (new) situation where faith is possible?
- Where, in your life and in others’, do you see both “entrapment” that prevents faith and “liberation” that welcomes faith?
3. Bonhoeffer then offers his central premise:
“The idea of a situation in which faith is possible is only a way of stating the facts of a case in which the following two propositions hold good and are equally true: only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.” And, “Only the obedient believe. If we are to believe, we must obey a concrete command.”
- Why, according to Bonhoeffer, are the two inseparable?
4. Bonhoeffer doubles down further (page 68):
“When people complain, for instance, that they find it hard to believe, it is a sign of deliberate or unconscious disobedience. It is all too easy to put them off by offering the remedy of cheap grace.” “Unbelief thrives on cheap grace, for it is determined to persist in disobedience.”
- Staying with Bonhoeffer’s line of reasoning, what is the lure and deception of a life of disobedience to Jesus’ call?
5. To clarify the role of Jesus, Bonhoeffer offers these statements:
- “Here is the sum of the commandments – to live in fellowship with Christ.”
- “In the moment he takes up the young man’s question, Jesus wrenches it from him. He had asked the way to eternal life: Jesus answers, ‘I call thee, and that is all.’”
- “The life of discipleship is not the hero-worship we would pay to a good master, but obedience to the Son of God.”
- What do these three statements have in common?
6. Bonhoeffer concludes, “Perhaps you still think you ought to think out beforehand and know what you ought to do. To that there is only one answer. You can only know and think about it by actually doing it. You can only learn what obedience is by obeying. It is no use asking questions; for it is only through obedience that you come to learn the truth.”
- The call to discipleship leads each of us down the uncharted road of spiritual discernment, where we encounter the Holy Spirit’s loving invitation to receive and obey the call of Jesus.
- How does our relationship to Jesus deepen as we submit to his consummate love and grace? How does this change us?