Bonhoeffer's Birthday: The Relevance of Costly Grace

Eric Metaxas | Author | Monday, February 4, 2013

Bonhoeffer's Birthday: The Relevance of Costly Grace

Today is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday. Since my book on him was published three years ago, fascination with the young German pastor continues to grow. The interest is so great I’ve recently been asked to do a 10-city Bonhoeffer tour.

I have to ask myself: Why are so many people intrigued by Bonhoeffer? The answer, I believe, is that the message of Bonhoeffer's life is hugely relevant today — especially when it comes to the growing threats against religious freedom.

Thoughtful people see the handwriting on the wall: First there's the HHS mandate, which demands that religious organizations buy insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs.

Then there's the case of Pastor Louie Giglio, who was forced to step down from giving the benediction at President Obama's inauguration. Why? Because many years ago, he preached a sermon saying homosexual practice was wrong.

If you work in corporate America and hold to the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage, you'd better keep your mouth shut. Or you might be fired or have your business boycotted.

And now, the Boy Scouts may finally be yielding to the enormous pressure put on them to allow openly gay men to participate in Scouting — including as Scout leaders.

In effect, the state and the culture at large are seeking to compel us to put aside our religious beliefs. If we don't do something now, it will be too late.

And this is why Bonhoeffer is so relevant today. Please listen to these words from my old boss and dear friend Chuck Colson:

Under persecution, Bonhoeffer discovered that, even though God's grace is freely given, it also extracts a high cost. It was costly grace that led Bonhoeffer to continue teaching and preaching the Word of God even though the Nazis tried to suppress his work. Costly grace led Bonhoeffer to stand against a turncoat church that mixed Nazi doctrine with Christian truth. ... Costly grace led Bonhoeffer to attempt to smuggle Jews out of Germany, even though it led to his arrest. ... Along with other faithful believers, Bonhoeffer signed the Barmen Declaration, which boldly declared their independence from both the state and a co-opted church.

As I said, today is Bonhoeffer's 107th birthday. And were he alive today and living in America, costly grace for him would likely mean preaching what the Word of God teaches about human sexuality — even when activists and their allies in government try to suppress his work and attack his church. Costly grace would mean standing against churches that mix radical new doctrines about marriage with Christian truth. Costly grace would mean standing up to a government attempting to force him to buy health insurance that violates his beliefs — even if it led to his arrest.

And costly grace would, I believe, lead him to sign the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, just as he signed the Barmen Declaration, which I quote at length in my book.

Now I must say that Chuck Colson had the Barmen Declaration in mind when he co-authored the Manhattan Declaration. Chuck saw many parallels between what the church faced in Nazi Germany in the thirties and what faithful Christians are facing today in America.

So let me ask you — are you willing to count the cost and sign the Manhattan Declaration? If you visit and click on this commentary, you'll find links to both the Manhattan Declaration and to my Bonhoeffer tour where I’ll have the opportunity to unpack a lot of these ideas.

Today — 68 years after his death — will we, like Bonhoeffer, call on the Church to wake up and be the people of God, no matter the cost?

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: February 4, 2013

Bonhoeffer's Birthday: The Relevance of Costly Grace