Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Higher Life

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

“As Christianity spread, and the Church became more secularized, this realization of the costliness of grace gradually faded. The world was Christianized, and grace became its common property. It was to be had at low cost. Yet the Church of Rome did not altogether lose the earlier vision.

It is highly significant that the Church was astute enough to find room for the monastic movement, and to prevent it from lapsing into schism. Here on the outer fringe of the Church was a place where the older vision was kept alive. Here men still remembered that grace costs, that grace means following Christ.

Here they left all they had for Christ’s sake, and endeavoured daily to practise His rigorous commands. Thus monasticism became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity and the cheapening of grace. But the Church was wise enough to tolerate this protest, and to prevent it from developing to its logical conclusion.

It thus succeeded in relativizing it, even using it in order to justify the secularization of its own life. Monasticism was represented as an individual achievement which the mass of the laity could not be expected to emulate.

By thus limiting the application of the commandments of Jesus to a restricted group of specialists, the Church evolved the fatal conception of the double standard-a maximum and a minimum standard of Christian obedience. Whenever the Church was accused of being too secularized, it could always point to monasticism as an opportunity of living a higher life within the fold, and thus justify the other possibility of a lower standard of life for others.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1979) 49-50.

Grace costs. Those who pay the price experience the higher life. Don’t listen to the mainstream church. Following Christ is not just for specialists. Everyone can be a monk!

Much of Christianity today is a secular alternative to the real and rigorous experience of following Christ. It’s only found by obeying His commands.

Taking hold of it will cost us everything. But we don’t figure it out until we live it out that we only lose if you hold back. We each have a choice to make.

Today I get to have lunch out with a dear friend, Micah Kohls. Can’t wait! Cherish the times with your friends. When you do, urge each other to pursue the higher life.

In my country there will be political protests today. But what if we all lived as “living protests” as Bonhoeffer put it, against the secularization of Christianity?

The cost of grace is far greater and more generous than any sacrifice we might make. May our generosity merely demonstrate the price Christ paid.