I noticed during my first semester of college that few people seem to know much about Christianity or really care. Where I expected to find belligerence I instead found apathy. It’s not that people hate the Church, it’s that they simply couldn’t care less. They don’t find Christ at all relevant to their own lives. And who can blame them? The example they’ve been given is less than stellar. Christians today don’t look much different than the rest of the world. We have broken marriages, broken families, broken morals, and broken lives. We have become so divided in our denominations and strayed so far from the historical Church that we can hardly agree on anything important anymore.
Christians have behaved so that it seems we have nothing special to offer the world. We have become too comfortable in our pews and pulpits with our cheap grace. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer explained that “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. 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.” Essentially, Bonhoeffer’s thoughts here echo the words of the Apostle Paul when he warned against presuming upon grace in Romans 6.
Cheap grace is an easy pit to fall into, especially because we have become so obsessed with changing the world and heeding Christ’s command to “make disciples,” that we have forgotten that we are disciples. We have been called to this narrow road of discipleship, and it is a dangerous road indeed. But it is through our example and our good works that they will see Christ.
It is only by being disciples that we will ever fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples. The Scriptures are very clear:
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, ESV)
This is more than a childhood chorus to let “this little light of mine” shine. It is a call to live as Christ lived and follow his example and in doing so shine before others. Now the Bible is clear: faith comes by hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17, ESV) Preaching is invaluable, and sharing the Gospel is not an option. It is only through the words of God that faith can exist. But the unity between preaching the word and living the faith is exactly what Paul is talking about when he says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV) The Gospel changes lives, but we are also called upon by God to live as an example to others. That example lends authenticity to our message. How are they to know what love is unless we love them? How are they to know what selflessness is unless we serve them? Sharing the Gospel is not just giving a speech but rather living a life.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21, ESV)
The good news is that the word of God is living and active which means that despite our blunders and hypocrisy God is still at work. However, we are never to presume upon grace. “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:2-4, ESV)
Think about how comforting this passage is! We are now equipped, by Christ himself, to walk in newness of life! Love is now an intrinsic part of the disciple of Christ, and we can now share the Gospel effectively. This means that the world must hear, but it also means the world must see.
The Church should never begin and end at the doors on Sunday morning. The Church should never be mistaken for a pile of bricks. Rather, the Church should be seen for what it truly is: the hands and feet of God on earth, following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ and living out first his command to follow, and then his command to make disciples. This is what it means to walk with grace: that we take on a new kind of Christian life. Discipleship is not an easy way of life, but it is the only way we can live with peace and serve with love. It is the only way we can live out our Savior’s commands to make disciples, and it is the only way we can answer his call to “come, follow me.”