Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book review: The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Philip Yancey in a book; Soul Survivor, How my Faith Survived the Church, identifies how reading can sometimes deliver a message powerfully.  In reading some Christian titles Yancey recalls how:
"I felt the power that allows one human mind to penetrate another with no intermediary but a piece of flattened wood pulp.  I saw that writing could seep into crevices, bringing spiritual oxygen to people trapped in air-tight boxes". page 7, 2001, paperback. 
In reading The Cost of Discipleship I have experienced that power.  Bonhoeffer speaks wonderfully across the Christian communion.  Bonhoeffer is as relevant today as when he was writing the book in the 1930s.
Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship stands out in two ways.  Firstly, in the opening chapter; Costly Grace, and, secondly in the extended consideration of the Sermon on the Mount

Bonhoeffer is at his most ardent in the book’s opening chapter.  Bonhoeffer is making a passionate plea to the church.  He begs the church to take great care.  The church need ensure that God’s grace is dispensed respectfully.  At risk, is a cheap dispensation of the grace – preaching of God’s forgiveness where the hearer is not obliged to repentance.  Bonhoeffer’s warning is to the church yet the warning has application to people who hear the church’s message. 

The hearer need understand that offer of grace requires a response of the hearer.  It is in this way that grace is costly grace.  The hearer should respond with a genuine change of heart.  A person who has such a change of heart will willingly be yoked to Jesus as a follower.  Once yoked to Jesus the hearer willingly serves as a disciple in fulfilment of the ongoing mission of Christ’s people in the world.

Bonhoeffer’s extended consideration of the Sermon on the Mount – from the Gospel of Matthew – is a very worthy read.  Bonhoeffer identifies how Jesus employs the sermon as a way of heralding in his kingdom.  Perhaps, the heralding of the kingdom is exhibited best in Bonhoeffer consideration of a single verse – from Matthew 5:4:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” 

Bonhoeffer identifies that it is the disciples who will mourn the world and the ways of the world.  The disciples will mourn as they know that much more awaits the disciples in their eternal lives.  The disciples will also mourn because not everyone will heed God’s call to a repentant life.  They will mourn in yearning, as God does, for all men to be part of Christ’s kingdom.  And, in their mourning God will provide them their joyous eternal comfort.

 

I encourage you to read The Cost of Discipleship.  If pressed for time please consider reaching for the book to read just its first powerful chapter.  It may change your life!
 
Shalom, Ozhamada

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