Bonhoeffer on Christian Discipleship & What’s Missing Today


I’m currently working on a Theology of Suffering. This is a series of sermons designed to help us work through the Scripture and develop an appropriate response to the work of evil and suffering in this world. In my preparation, I came across these remarks in The Cost of Discipleshipthat I had underlined. I think they matter and speak to some comments made here yesterday about ‘easy believism.’

If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life. We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering. The Psalmist was lamenting that he was despised and rejected of men, and that is an essential quality of the suffering of the cross. But this notion has ceased to be intelligible to Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary human life and a life committed to Christ. The cross means sharing the suffering of Christ to the last and to the fullest. Only a man thus totally committed in discipleship can experience the meaning of the cross. The cross is there, right from the beginning, he has only got to pick it up: there is no need for him to go out and look for a cross for himself, no need for him deliberately to run after suffering. Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God. Each must endure his allotted share of suffering and rejection.” (The Cost of Discipleship, 88-89)

After a while, I suppose I shall this entire book posted here. What is missing in today’s church is exactly that belief. What is missing is precisely the willingness to live as Bonhoeffer describes: Cross centered. No, all you have to do is pay a visit to to see that Bonhoeffer was right on the mark.

“If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross, deny himself, and follow me.” Pray to God the church gets its bearings.

Soli Deo Gloria!



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