Monday, May 11, 2015

Cheap Grace and Designer Purses

I'm currently reading a devotional book, 40 Days with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  In one reading Bonhoeffer wrote of what he calls "cheap grace", which he defines:

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

As I read this, the image that popped in to my mind was...purses.  Cheap purses. Knock off handbags.  Purses with fake designer labels - they look like the original but on close inspection, they lack the marks of quality craftsmanship originals have.   
Counterfeit bags typically have poor workmanship with loose threads and uneven stitching.  They’re usually made from less expensive materials, with buckles and clasps that are hollow and tarnish easily.  These bags don’t hold up to normal wear and tear and when they get wet, quite often the dyes run and the “leather of questionable means” smells really bad!

People who purchase these purses don’t care they fall apart easily because it’s a simple matter of throwing them out and getting new, more current styles.  They’re easily replaced, suiting the whims of the buyers.  They don’t see the purpose or sense of investing in a classic that will last them a long time.  Besides, expensive purses require a bit of care!

Leathers need conditioned; materials need cleaned; care must be taken to not toss the bags around carelessly or leave exposed to extremes.  Some people don’t think it’s worth the effort to maintain a purse; they see it as a utilitarian and consumable supply or as a fashion statement that only needs to last a season. They’ll keep it as long as it looks good.

Cheap grace is like a counterfeit designer purse. At first glance, it might look like the real thing. Up close, though, it lacks the character and integrity of the genuine article.  Cheap grace doesn’t hold up under even moderate use – Sundays and maybe a few mid-week prayer meetings. The cheapest of cheap grace only has to survive Christmas and Easter!

Though they’d never admit it, far too many Christians see their faith through consumers’ eyes, viewing cheap grace as the best investment since they only need it until the next style comes in to fashion – the next theme, the next inspiring quote, the next movement. And unfortunately, these people convince others that this grace is the genuine article, gathering unsuspecting believers along the way.
However, grace – cheap or otherwise – isn’t a disposable commodity.  When cheap grace is soaked by some thunderstorm, it’s not a purse that comes unglued and smells bad; it’s someone’s heart and soul, left in pieces, disillusioned and bitter.  A heart and soul left wary of ever investing in any grace ever again, even the genuine article.

Forgiveness without repentance does not assuage guilt, but glosses it over, leaving it to be dealt with another day. Baptism without church discipline is membership without commitment; nothing to be counted on, no sure foundation on which to stand. And Communion without confession?  Well, that’s just a piece of bread and a thimbleful of grape juice; a meaningless ritual.

Designer original grace is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) from the Creator but it requires care for it to last. Daily attention is needed to keep it in good order.  Certainly, there are behaviors from which to abstain – Romans 13:13 give a list of ways by which believers can “walk properly” or “behave decently” to keep grace unscathed; but these actions done without wholehearted engagement result in half-hearted efforts – cheap grace.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind; in other words, you preserve grace by loving God with your entire self.  Believers are to be the genuine article, recipients and bestowers of authentic grace; the real thing.

Protecting the Designer original is hard work and sadly, the free gift that God is wanting to lavish on the world is not in demand.  It’s out of fashion.  I admit there are times (far too many times, if I’m going to be honest) I envy the seeming ease of cheap grace; an “I’m OK, you’re OK”, low-maintenance faith. I‘ve amassed my own collection of cheap, fake fashion accessories in my lifetime.

Jesus said we’re to count the cost if we want to be His disciples (Luke 14:28). He speaks of serving and putting others ahead of ourselves. He speaks of being mocked and suffering for His sake.  That free handbag will cost you in blood, sweat and tears – many tears! Yet considering the eternal rewards of God’s promises, the cost is minimal.

What’s amazing is not only is the gift free, but by His death and resurrection, Jesus gives us the ability to perform the maintenance!  His promises do all the heavy lifting! Promises like “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” , “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”, and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”,  to quote just a few.

On the front end, cheap grace looks appealing but it has no staying power. Accepting anything other than the genuine article is a gamble, only it's not your reputation as a fashionista that you are betting, you’re gambling your eternal soul.  In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is quoted  "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Those bargain bags aren't really bargains after all.

Accepting genuine grace brings about great reward, now and later. There are many verses that speak of this, such as "The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward" (Prov 11:18), "Whosoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded" (Prov 11:13)

Precious items such as these only fit in designer original handbags.  Accept no substitute.





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