What is "Cheap Grace"...really?

(Vincent Van Gogh's "Weeping Woman")

My favorite blogger Ann Voskamp, over at A Holy Experience, hit another home run with her recent post entitled "You Know They're Laughing At Us, Right?"

I also weep over the Creflo Dollars of the pop-Christian-culture...and the Josh Duggars of the fundamentalist-legalist-Christian sub-culture...and the Tullian Tchividjians of the grace-Christian camp...and I applaud and appreciate Voskamp's willingness to name names.

The great apostle Paul named names.  And so must we.  Carefully.  With many tears.

I would only add one thing to Ann's post - and it feels like wild presumption to even think I could add to the thoughts of one of our day's finest writers - but in her recent post she said:

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

I couldn't agree more.  And here is what I would add:

Cheap grace is grace without local church.  Cheap grace is grace without true community.

Where else is repentance required and lived out, if not in the context of community?  Where else does church discipline take place, but in church?  Who do we confess our sins to, if not to a safe community of believers?  Where else is discipleship fleshed out, the cross made vivid, wolves in sheep clothing called by their name, and the flock of God guarded, and where else can Christ be incarnated?

Nowhere else but the church.  

All these things - repentance, church discipline, confession, incarnation - do not find their full expression within one person, or within a small group of favorite people who think like me, or within a business.  They don't find full and robust expression even in one family.  "Family church" can be a smokescreen to avoid the pain of real, true, flawed, diverse, beautiful local church.  To avoid church community is to live in such a way as to never have to extend grace to anyone but "me and mine".

Living like a lone ranger is cheap grace.

When I hear someone refer to "cheap grace", or "easy believe-ism", I laugh. I've read (and love) all of Bonhoeffer's works, and I get what he meant, when he coined the term "cheap grace" from a prison cell, living in close community amongst a diversity of men, suffering for the sake of Christ.

But can we, with authority, use those words unless we are likewise living in community as Bonhoeffer did?  Some who use the words "cheap grace", are using them to look down their nose at someone else...or to take someone else's theology down a peg or two.  No one who bandies those words for those reasons have actually understood the grace of God - because it can't be comprehended outside the gritty community of imperfect local church...a place often filled with prodigals in various stages of return.  

That's why repentance and confession must be preached and incarnated before the eyes of our watching community, right alongside justification and grace.  That's why I appreciate Voskamp's use of the term "cheap grace" - her context is spot-on.

Grace is mere concept to the rugged Christian individualist, that is why they think it can be cheapened. When you "live of the gospel", when you live in right relationship to others, nothing is more costly or more difficult in life than to earnestly look for the good, to "keep yourself in the love of God". (Jude)

Far from being "cheap", the truth of grace will cost you more than you ever thought you could pay, and stretch your faith beyond where you thought you could go.
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