Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.
Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacrament; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without costs. It is said that the essence of grace is that the bill for it is paid in advance for all time. Everything can be had for free, courtesy of that paid bill. The price paid is infinitely great and, therefore, the possibilities of taking advantage of and wasting grace are also infinitely great. What would grace be, if it were not cheap grace?
Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship
There are some easy-to-miss words at the beginning of today’s Gospel Reading. Here they are again:
Now large crowds were travelling with him…
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus. Great numbers of people. You know what can happen when people get together in a crowd? They can become a mob very easily. A mob mentality can take over very quickly.
Jesus needs to stay on mission. He doesn’t want a mob. He is starting what we could call the ‘Jesus Movement’, and he wants the people with him to stay on mission too.
So what does Jesus do? He gets them to count the cost. He sorts them out. Those who really can’t last the distance need to feel free to leave. So he speaks in the exaggerated way that teachers of his day had:
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Count the cost. In other words; If you follow me, you may find opposition from your family. If you follow me, you may be persecuted. Count the cost before you take another step.