Conflict and Challenge, instead of Cheap Grace

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“Don’t hate,” the Facebook commenter said to me after I stated a position about a current event. I hadn’t said anything hateful. I had said something challenging. It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of response. While the right wing (along with certain progressives like President Obama) rightly criticizes the fragility on college campuses these days, the right–including the religious right–has its own problem. So without denying the problem on the liberal side, I would like to speak about the fragility within churches and hopefully exhort Christian readers to rise above it.

Cheap Grace

I see fragility most evident in Christian community in regards to justice issues. While churches rightly encourage us to forgive sins and make way for grace, all too often churches try to rush through the process of grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this “cheap grace.” He wrote,

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.

The Cost of Discipleship

Cheap grace is why we do things like expect the abused to welcome abusers back into their lives and even homes.

It’s why we assume the person known to have molested children should be given church leadership or share their testimony without deep, accountable, long-term work of repentance in consultation with a professional.

And it is why we think that sins committed by our ancestors, whose effects stretch into the present day, have nothing to do with us today.

It is why we think “if our heart is in the right place,” unintentional sin or offense doesn’t matter.

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