Costly Grace

Luke 9: 22-25

If we choose the Lenten road to greater holiness, Jesus is our companion on this path of self-denial. Others may take a different path, the path of the world, where their companions are pride, envy and disobedience. Both roads lead to death, but the Lenten path takes us through death to new life.


If you ask people what they want from life, most people would, I think, say they want to be healthy, happy, enjoy good relationships, have happy healthy children, and have enough money to live comfortably, so they can afford to go on vacation, have a nice home, and so forth.

So Jesus’ invitation to deny one’s self, take up our cross and follow him, on face value does not sound particularly appealing!  If advertising executives were around in Jesus’ day, I’m sure they’d be saying to Jesus “You know, if you want to draw some customers to your ministry, you might want to ditch all this talk about denying yourself and taking up your cross - it gives your movement a bad image.”


Certainly Jesus’ call to deny one’s self is as counter cultural today as it has ever been.  It is only when we are truly prepared to stop living life for ourselves, and start living it for Jesus that we truly find life. That is at the heart of what I think Jesus is calling us to do here in this passage. His call is to stop living life our way, and living it his way - imitating his life, obeying his commands, and boldly standing up for what is right.

Going back to what people want from life, I suspect what most people want is an easy life – myself included.  The trouble is that I think we’ve sometimes wanted our Christian faith to be easy as well, so that being a Christian doesn't put too many demands on us. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. He said:


 “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, and Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, and grace without Jesus Christ."


But we are actually called to costly grace. "Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ (to be "ordered" to him), and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I was inspired by a post made on the “Parents of the North Hills School District” Facebook page yesterday by a fellow parishioner who is a North Hills School district mom and school volunteer. I’d like to share some of it with you. The poster took a risk by making this post to what was sure to be an audience that included many non-believers. No doubt she called upon costly grace as she redirecting others to act with love and compassion. Here’s just a part of what she said:


“As we know today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. Many give up what they love to eat. I give up what I love to do and that is Facebook. I love going on and seeing pics of my family, friends, their kids and fur babies. I love getting new recipe ideas from Facebook. I love sending birthday wishes and reading all kinds of stories. I will miss all of that, as well as sharing my own things.”

“What I will not miss is reading about the bashing of teachers, kitchen staff, lunch aides and paramedics on this page. It's terrible, and it's heartbreaking”!!!

“If you have an issue with a teacher, kindly take that concern to the teacher instead of plastering it on social media. Same with any other concern you have regarding your child's school. Many of you don't realize but teachers and staff are on this page and see everything that is being said about them and their colleagues. It's just not right.”

“So with it being the Lenten season and today being Valentine's Day, let's spread more love and compassion. Maybe take a minute to think about what you're going to post. Reach out to the school or teacher first, before social media. Maybe take this time to talk with your child about respecting the rules of conduct, and that those rules are implemented for a reason, which is to be respectful of others.”

“We love your kids or we would not be there. Spread more kindness!”

That post exhibited the heart of a Christian. It took some courage, but it may help guide others to the Lenten path. As we enter this Lenten season, we have an opportunity for us think again about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To think about Jesus’ radical call to discipleship.  


The Christian life can be tough and challenging. As we sit here today, it’s hard for us to imagine what is going on in these schools - what this Facebook poster is speaking of, and even worse, the violence that we heard about in the news yesterday. But is only when we order our lives to Christ, that we discover life as it is meant to be lived, because ultimately, it is only Jesus who is the answer to our problems and the world’s problems.


So, our prayer today, as we begin our Lenten journey, is for Jesus to help guide each of us in our call to costly grace, so that we can become more emboldened to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and someday become worthy of journeying beyond death to life eternal!


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