The Cost of Discipleship is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s seminal work par excellence. In this perennial work Bonhoeffer teases out the Nachfolge — German for bearing one’s cross as Christ did; an imitation of Christ, a.k.a. being a disciple.
Seemingly without peer, Bonhoeffer draws out the intensity of what being a disciple means. There is nothing optional about it. First of all, it’s not about how we “behave if [we] follow Jesus, but… the renunciation of self-determination and of one’s own reasoning.”
For Bonhoeffer, discipleship begins with the renunciation of cheap grace; that, we can only adhere to the tenets of costly grace — that our salvation cost our Saviour His life! — once we determine renunciation necessary.
According to John H. Yoder, here are three necessary renunciations for every Christ-disciple, according to Bonhoeffer’s discipleship ethic. Christians are blessed in the renunciation:
1. Of honour: Christians are to give up all craving of status and entitlement, (though the Father knows our need of recognition and acceptance and will provide).
2. Of power: Given that some Christians are given power by virtue of their positions, they show their allegiance to Christ through their refusal to misuse that power.
3. Of violence: Christians are to be true pacifists, which is the nonviolent activism of the brand of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi (though non-Christian). (Power and violence are forces that are often coupled together.)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) might be heard to say:
Blessed are all disciples, because they cheerfully bear the burden of others. They don’t crave honour nor misuse power nor enter into violence. For these who are blessed, the coming of the Kingdom is good news, not simply for how they behave, but for who they already are.
Disciples are so set apart from the world that they reveal another world to the world.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.
Acknowledgement: Gregor, B., & Zimmermann, J. Being Human, Becoming Human: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Social Thought [e-book]. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 2012. Quote taken from page 137.