Cost of Discipleship: Part 3 -Oaths

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Author of Cost of Discipleship

“Trust me”, “take my word”, “I promise”, “I swear”…

Words like these we so often here in our world today when someone is trying to emphasize their truthfulness or perhaps convince you that they are being truthful. Our court systems make you swear on a Bible to ‘tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth’ before witnessing in any case.

Oaths, as we will call them, seem like a good thing. It’s an assurance of truth. But I would beg to say, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer would agree, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of oaths.

As Bonhoeffer writes “the very existence of oaths is a proof that there are such things as lies”. It’s an odd thing to think about, but the very fact that we have to say ‘I swear’ or ‘take my word’ only goes to admit that sometimes we shouldn’t take someone’s word. For “If lying were unknown, the world would have no need for oaths… But it goes further than that: for there, where alone the oath claims final truth, is space in life given to the lie, and it is granted a certain right to life.”

In other words while we say, “I swear” you are in a way also saying, that there are instances outside of this occasion, in which lying is permitted. Because by saying that in this instance you are not lying, you are admitting that your telling of the truth, is not something that should always be granted.

But “Jesus destroys the lie by forbidding oaths altogether”

“swear not by heaven or by earth…let your yes be yes and your no be no” Matthew 5:35

G_d is declaring that His followers must act in such a way as to tell the truth to the same level throughout their lives. That when you say ‘yes’ even in the most informal circumstances, that you must act as though you had sworn to it. If you cannot hold your ‘yes’ to such a standard then do not say ‘yes’ at all. Your ‘yes’ is always ‘yes’. Not just when it is convenient, not just when you desire it to be so, but in every circumstance. The same is to be said of your ‘no’.

Truthfulness is to become the norm rather then the special circumstance when accompanied by an oath. “It means that every word they utter is spoken in His presence, and not only those words which are accompanied by an oath… since they always speak a whole truth and nothing but the truth, there is no need for an oath”

This plays into the last blog which dealt with the Call of Discipleship and being real with G_d and His people. For “only those who are in a state of truthfulness through the confessions of their sin to Jesus are not ashamed to tell the truth wherever it must be told. The truthfulness which Jesus demands from His followers is the self-abnegation which does not hid sin. Nothing is then hidden, everything is brought forth to the light of day”

So we are left with a choice. Do we continue to even allow lies a breath by continuing to make oaths? Or do we decide that our lives will be run on complete and open honesty. To tell the truth, the whole truth or nothing but the truth?

It won’t be easy. It is our natural tendency not to tell the whole truth when we confess our sins, or at the very least paint the whole truth in some sort of rose colored hue. But this is not what Jesus has asked. He as commanded us to tell the whole truth… every detail. even the uncomfortable.

I know I struggle with this. I know I’ll continue to struggle with this. But I know one of my first steps will be determining that when someone asks me about something that I give them the whole story… As if I had just sworn upon a bible.

Cost of Discipleship: Part 2 – The Call

[If you have not at least read to intro to this blog series please start there]

“And as He passed by He saw Levi, the son of Alpheaus sitting at the place of toll, and He said to HIim, Follow me. And he rose and followed him.” Mark 2.14

To this day this story often baffles the minds of Christians. Jesus gives a simple call and Levi responds with immediate obedience. There is no debate, no pause, not even a few honest questions, just a simple obedient response to a simple calling. But our own Christian walks rarely resemble Levi’s example.

We have questions, we may step back in moments and re-asses, we may even stop following altogether. But Levi… Levi simply obeys. “It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, levi follows at once”.

When was the last time we acted like that with Christ? Simply obeying His call. Obeying His command the one simple reason that He commanded it.

This is one of the greatest problems in our Christian world. We still are in charge, we call ourselves Christians but often don’t feel the need to do what Christ asks of us. We don’t want to submit to his school of discipleship but desire to create our own, and still carry the name ‘christian’.

But G_d’s call is out of the known, out of the comfortable, out of the firmiliar. It is no longer our plan. No longer our comfort that is the focus. It is His way only. “No other significance is possible, since Jesus is the only significance.”

We wish to decide the parts of our lives that G_d is allowed into “but then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a program of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves”. If we truly want to heed the call we must let him into every part of our lives, without question or delay, without excuses or justifications.

The true disciple obeys all that is commanded of him. He does not ask which commands must one obey. “The very devil lurks at this question” for the question is in dire hopes that some commands don’t pertain to us. That somehow we are given a free pass in the some area of our lives.

We have dumbed down the offensive commands of G_d to our comfort levels. We convince ourselves that when G_d tells us to “sell thy goods” He meant that we shouldn’t become attached to our possessions. But ‘the difference between us and the rich young man is that he was not allowed a solace of his regrets by saying: never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that G_D has forgiven me my sins and I can have fellowship with Christ in faith.’

The rich young man was given no opportunity for excuse. No exit which he could keep his dignity, and pride. No option to compromise.

It is time that we stop padding the power and the demand of the call to discipleship. To put it in the simple yet highly demanding words of Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man, He bids us to come and die”

Cost of Discipleship: Part 1- Cheap Grace

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I like to consider myself a pretty avid reader. The fact that 4 of the 7 pieces of furniture in my room are bookshelves would probably suport that belief. with all that reading there is one theory that I have come to believe pretty strongly when it comes to reading theology: All of the great theology books that come out these days are often just modern authors saying what authors from the past have already said, the problem is they don’t say it as well.

That being said my latest read from one of the ‘old school guys’ is Cost of Discipleship, By Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My next few posts I plan on trying to sumerize some of what Bonhoeffer talks about in the book, but I would first refer you once again to my previously said theory. Any attempt I make to express what Bonhoeffer did won’t express it nearly as well as he did, hence why this looks more like a list of quotes then me trying to re-express what he already said. In the end, you should read the book but I write this in hopes that it will encourage you to read it and also knowing that this blog might be the closest some of you may ever get to reading it.

As you read this blog understand it may not leave you feeling comfortable, in fact I would argue to say if you still do feel comfortable you weren’t truly reading. Let it sink in. Chew on it. Don’t turn straight back to your Facebook feed. Let the words settle on your heart.

All of that being said here we go…

Our society, our culture has become enamored with ‘cheap grace’. A grace that is presented like another item in the grocery store shelves. An option. Our Christian society has become salesmen, doing all we can to ‘sell’ the product of Christian grace, emphasizing more than anything else it’s ‘low cost’ feature.

But Christian grace isn’t cheap. The grace lavished upon us was brought to us through blood pain and death. The death not of a mere man, the death of G_D Himself! Cheep, free, inexpensive doesn’t describe Christian grace. This grace was costly, for it cost His very own Son. No amount of wealth could have achieved it. The gold reserves of earth could never have begun to crack open the gates of heaven.

But Further than simply a costly grace on His behalf it is a costly grace to us. “When he spoke of grace, Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ”

We have comforted ourselves with the idea that we can do whatever we want with our lives ignoring the call of discipleship that is bonded with grace and receive the grace all the same. “It is under the influence of this kind of ‘grace’ that the world has been made ‘Christian’, at the cost of secularizing the Christian religion as never before.

“I need no longer try to follow Christ, for cheap grace, the bitterest foe of discipleship, which true discipleship must loathe and detest, freed me from that’

“We [Christians] have gathered like the eagles round the carcase of cheap grace, and there we have drunk the poison which has killed the life of following Christ’

The disease of cheap grace has so vastly infected our country that it is the reason that ‘hypocrite’ and ‘christian’ are words so often found together in conversation. It is the reason Bonhoeffer saw ‘millions of spiritual corpses’ in Germany in his own time. It is not true Christianity, it is a masquerade, and if it is not confronted it shall be the slow and quiet strangling of true Christianity

“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”

“It was grace because it cost so much, and it cost so much because it was grace”.

And so “the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: how can we live the Christian life in the modern world?”