Discipleship Pondering

I have been going back to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship lately. We sometimes lose the focus in our discipleship. How can we Christian’s lose our focus on Jesus?  And yet we do!  Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and 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.”

“How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4

“[Jesus] stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality. Since the whole world was created through him and unto him (John 1:3; 1st Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2), he is the sole Mediator in the world…

The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion. All the time we thought we had enjoyed a direct relation with men and things. This is what had hindered us from faith and obedience. Now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life, in our kinship with father and mother, bothers and sisters, in married

Cover of "The Cost of Discipleship"

Cover of The Cost of Discipleship

love, and in our duty to the community, direct relationships are impossible. Since the coming of Christ, his followers have no more immediate realities of their own, not in their family relationships nor in the ties with their nation nor in the relationships formed in the process of living. Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize him or not. We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word, and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves.

But since we are bound to abhor any deception which hides the truth from our sight, we must of necessity repudiate any direct relationship with the things of this world–and that for the sake of Christ. Wherever a group, be it large or small, prevents us from standing alone before Christ, wherever such a group raises a claim of immediacy it must be hated for the sake of Christ. For every immediacy, whether we realize it or not, means hatred of Christ, and this is especially true where such relationships claim the sanctions of Christian principles.,,

There is no way from one person to another. However loving and sympathetic we try to be, however sound our psychology, however frank and open our behavior, we cannot penetrate the incognito of the other man, for there are no direct relationships, not even between soul and soul. Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Larry Hollon shared another take on discipleship in his blog earlier this week:

He noted, “While the word “disciple,” (or its equivalent in the language of the day), may have been understood more clearly in Jesus’ time, in the modern day lexicon of faith “discipleship” is less clearly understood and according to research by United Methodist Communications, this lack of clarity leads to confusion, lost communication and a weakening of the connectivity of the United Methodist community of faith.

“Because the word discipleship and the work of making disciples is so central to the mission of the church, lack of clarity about what it means is a crucial issue. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote definitively on the subject of discipleship in 1937, but his work is not widely known today.”

Hollon went on to share a definition of discipleship from Bishop Michael Coyner of the Indiana Episcopal Area, who offered this definition as an excellent overview:

“A DISCIPLE is a person who

experiences the

forgiveness and acceptance of God,

follows the life and teachings of Jesus Christ,

demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit,

AND WHO

shares in the life and witness of a community of disciples,

including Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,

serves in some form of ministry every day,

participates in God’s suffering and transformation of the world,

anticipates a future life in the presence of God,

AND WHO THEREBY

yearns to lead others to become disciples.”

I’m looking forward to sharing some Bonhoeffer at our Confirmation Worship on May 12.  Faith!

About Tom Bolton

I'm a Husband and Dad, a former Enterprise Systems Manager at the City of Milwaukee, and a Disciple and Lay Servant at First United Methodist of West Allis. As I study the Bible, sometimes I feel moved to work through my understanding by writing poetry. I also am continuing to learn in my dialysis experience and pursuit of a kidney transplant. Sometimes I just feel like writing about something that grabs my attention too.
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9 Responses to Discipleship Pondering

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  3. Teddy Ray says:

    Tom,

    So glad you posted this and that you’re finding renewed inspiration from Bonhoeffer. Every time I come back to his “Cost of Discipleship” – even just chapter 1 – I’m challenged all over again.

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