“Grace and active obedience are complementary. There is no faith without good works, and no good works apart from faith.”
What does it actually mean to live a life being a follower of Jesus? That question is the very topic of The Cost of Discipleship by Detrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed in a concentration camp in Germany during World War II. Being a disciple is not an easy life and involves counting the cost. The book was originally published in 1937, six years before being arrested for joining in a plot to kill Hitler. From Hitler’s rise to power until Bonhoeffer’s death, he tried to convey to Christians and the Church the need to stand up for what is right.
I read Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer several years ago and found his story fascinating and very appropriate for our times. I added several of Bonhoeffer’s books to my to-read list upon finishing the biography. The Cost of Discipleship is the first book of his I have read and that is because I am being more intentional in what I am reading. I’m trying to read an inspirational, classic, historical and biographical book every month and then fit fiction around those books instead of the other way around. I’m finally reading books that have been in my to-read pile for a long time!
The Cost of Discipleship is a deep book in that it’s not a book that you can skim-read. Each chapter is full of theological points, Bible verses, examples and questions to ponder. The book has four parts. The first section is about grace and discipleship and in those chapters, Bonhoeffer wants the reader to question if he or she wants to be a disciple by examining what it costs to be one. The second section examines how the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) applies to the Christian life. The third section is about the work a disciple must do as a messenger of the Gospel, based on Matthew 9:35-10:42. The final section is about the church and the daily life of a disciple.
I enjoyed reading the book and was challenged by a lot. My favorite section was the second section to see Bonhoeffer’s view of the Sermon on the Mount. Even though the book was written 80 years ago, the thoughts apply to today. ” … He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards.”
I would highly recommend this book to any Christian who wants to delve deeper into what it means to live a daily Christian life. The words of a man who so clearly saw the evil that Hitler was bringing to the world should be heeded, even, and maybe especially, today. For non-Christians, the book may help explain why Christians make the choices they do in their desire to be a disciple of Jesus.
Have you read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer? What struck you most about his life?