Giving Your Gift, Receiving Sweet Grace
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
I published my last post, “Costly Grace for the Rest of Us,” with low expectations for its popularity. After all, who wants to read about receiving something we usually expect for free – gratis, grace – at a cost. Admittedly, “costly grace” seems an oxymoron. But I consider it not a contradiction but a paradox, the resolution of which brings great joy.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote as his country slid into Nazism with precious little resistance from the church. Understanding faith as verbal assent to a creed rather than a way of obedience to Christ, Christians could easily believe that they could follow whatever secular ideology seemed natural at the time. In Nazi Germany, that was an ideology that couched national pride in racial superiority. The ensuing bigotry within Germany’s borders led to holocaust. Beyond its borders, it led to World War II.
So Bonhoeffer prophetically taught costly grace as a wake-up call. He practiced what he preached, playing a leadership role in the Confessing Church movement that openly protested church submission to Nazism. He led an underground seminary for future leaders in radical discipleship. Eventually, he met his death for his pastoral association with people believed to work toward overthrowing Hitler.
But is a life shaped by costly grace a tense, grim existence in a dark world headed to perdition? No. It is a more joyous way than the cheap grace of nominal faith.
Can you think of anything that gives you more joy than the giving of your gifts? The exhilarated athlete and artist experience the joy of offering the gift for which they worked so hard for others to enjoy. When you give your love to your beloved, whether through affection, help, or time and attention, the joy you feel comes from the giving of your gift gratefully received. If you love your work, you love it because in those tasks you get to give your best.
Furthermore, do you not receive something precious when someone acknowledges your gift and thanks you or shares the joy? But you do not always get that. Much loneliness and emotional pain in this world begins with gifts offered but taken for granted or worse, rejected.
Costly grace is God’s promise to receive your gift with joy whether others appreciate it or not. Whatever you give of yourself – the “cost” – God receives with joy. All you have you received from God, even the gift you give back. The poor in spirit recognize that truth with gratitude and live accordingly. Costly grace is sweet because the life of discipleship invites you to give and know that God will take your gift and make it count more than you ever imagined.
I hope Bonhoeffer took comfort in that promise as he faced the gallows. History certainly bore it out. As you face your trials in a life of love, I pray that you take comfort in that promise too.
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