Grace –

an understanding for the postmodern world

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The  Cost of Discipleship

In today’s world as at the time of Bonhoeffer the perception of grace is often skewed to a person’s agenda. A person who needs for their own sake to come to an understanding of grace that allows them to continue on the pilgrim’s journey. The acronym from Sunday School






Gives us an inherited understanding of grace. Grace on its own is valuable – and it is indeed knowing the riches of God (displayed in the fruit of the spirit and the gifts of the spirit) and knowing the redeeming cost.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We know the cost Jesus Christ paid – he died on the Cross as an atonement for our sin.  This is known well and is preached well.

Less widely known is John’s other writing his three letters.

1 John 4:16-19

16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us.

No matter what is done to us we can offer mercy to the perpetrator. Where one man can stand tall and offer forgiveness immediately like Gordon Wilson[1] that is unusual. It is a process of worked through grace which is entwined with mercy that enabled Mandela[2] forgive the country that imprisoned him or how the Rwandans[3] found forgiveness as a process.

When a person describes a perpetrator as a monster they are in a stage of grief, some people never come out of that place and remain there for their whole lives. Others move to a stage where they can see the behaviour as monstrous but the person as a person.

A worked through understanding of grace allows a movement to be visualised and a small step of faith to be taken that is a dipping of a toe.