I wrote last week about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German Lutheran pastor who chose to ally himself with others and work for the defeat of Adolf Hitler before and during World War 2. One of the books he wrote during that time is entitled, “The Cost of Discipleship.”
My reaction to The Cost of Discipleship is three-fold. One, this is a tough, but necessary book to read and wrestle with. It is a summation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in real life. Bonhoeffer describes the challenge and reality of what Jesus called His followers to be – learners by attachment – and the cost necessary for such an adventure. He asserts that without commitment and submission to God, and daily obedience, discipleship is not possible. I found myself saying “yes” to the ideas about being an obedient disciple of Jesus, and asking for the help of the Holy Spirit (and other like-minded followers) to follow harder, on His terms.
Two, Bonhoeffer delineates the process by which Christ works to build his character in his followers. It is eye-opening to hear the teachings of Jesus as recorded by Matthew put into a context whereby it is possible to see how a disciple is made. It is helpful to hear the “why” as well as the “how” of following Jesus. I confess I haven’t see much of this talked about and practiced in the churches I have been a part of. It makes me wonder what kinds of disciples the church is actually producing? Are we producing ones that know cheap grace, or costly grace? Jesus seeks to build men and women of extraordinary Kingdom character, who more clearly reflect his – but it will require obedience. Bonhoeffer said, “Jesus has spoken. His is the Word, ours the obedience.”
Third, my vision to make disciples has been renewed as I am reminded about the vision, cost, and call I must live and pass on to others. Jesus is calling his followers to partner with Him in the greatest rescue operation of all time. But there are demands on the messengers of his message. We are to “go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This call and commission is not possible without the help of God, and he willingly offers himself to help us. What is so powerful is how Bonhoeffer weaves the themes of grace and cost together. Jesus calls his followers first to himself, and second to a task they can’t accomplish on their own. He also explains how God’s grace enables disciples to do just that, love God and love one another, because Christ didn’t die on a cross for people to be ignorant of who he is and what he has provided.
Read Luke 14:25-35.
Bonhoeffer saw a lot of compromise in the German Church to the ideas of Jesus. He knew that the Church was doomed to failure and a weak witness if they succumbed to the calling of the Nazi culture ascending to power. What Bonhoeffer wrote still has relevance for believers and Church leaders today, if they are at all interested in what it means to know and follow Christ.
If the Church could be bought, seduced, lured away, or compromised during a time of war, how much more we need to be diligent to understand what Jesus purchased for all people, and what it truly means to be the people of God. Jesus expects every man and woman who desires to follow Him (despite the lure of compromising their beliefs under difficult and varied circumstances), to give up everything to do so. The return God promises far outweighs the cost of following Jesus – forgiveness and life abundant. Live communally. Are you ready to live like this with others?
Love is a verb,
©2017 by Mike Olejarz