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The Cost of Discipleship

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What can the call to dis­ci­ple­ship, the adher­ence to the word of Jesus, mean today to the busi­ness­man, the sol­dier, the labor­er, or the aris­to­crat? What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today? Draw­ing on the Ser­mon on the Mount, Bon­ho­ef­fer answers these time­less ques­tions by pro­vid­ing a sem­i­nal read­ing of the dichoto­my between cheap grace” and cost­ly grace.” The Cost of Dis­ci­ple­ship is a com­pelling state­ment of the demands of sac­ri­fice and eth­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy from a man whose life and thought were exem­plary artic­u­la­tions of a new type of lead­er­ship inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spir­it of Chris­t­ian human­ism and a cre­ative sense of civic duty.



When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” With these words, in The Cost of Dis­ci­ple­ship, Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer gave pow­er­ful voice to the mil­lions of Chris­tians who believe per­son­al sac­ri­fice is an essen­tial com­po­nent of faith. Bon­ho­ef­fer, a Ger­man Luther­an pas­tor and the­olo­gian, was an exem­plar of sac­ri­fi­cial faith: he opposed the Nazis from the first and was even­tu­al­ly impris­oned in Buchen­wald and hung by the Gestapo in 1945. The Cost of Dis­ci­ple­ship, first pub­lished in Ger­man in 1937, was Bon­ho­ef­fer­’s answer to the ques­tions, What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us to-day?” Bon­ho­ef­fer­’s answers are root­ed in Luther­an grace and derived from Chris­t­ian scrip­ture (almost a third of the book con­sists of an extend­ed med­i­ta­tion on the Ser­mon on the Mount). The book builds to a stun­ning con­clu­sion: its clos­ing chap­ter, The Image of Christ,” describes the believ­er’s spir­i­tu­al life as par­tic­i­pa­tion in Christ’s incar­na­tion, with a rare and epi­gram­mat­ic con­fi­dence: Through fel­low­ship and com­mu­nion with the incar­nate Lord,” Bon­ho­ef­fer writes, we recov­er our true human­i­ty, and at the same time we are deliv­ered from that indi­vid­u­al­ism which is the con­se­quence of sin, and retrieve our sol­i­dar­i­ty with the whole human race.”
Michael Joseph Gross

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