Unsettling Grace

In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes this statement:

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

I read this today and it hit me. I was struck with a renewed realisation of the extent and impact of God’s plan for me and with this a feeling of fear; this troubles me. It troubles me because it means that all those things I truly value and hold precious, all those habits and dispositions, ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are rooted deep within me but which do not reflect God are going to have to go, and I know it will be a painful experience doing so. But at the same time I feel tremendous sense of joy which has lead me to pray exactly for this. Joy because what I cannot accomplish by myself, what I have come to long for even though that which I already am works against, God promises to do within me; God is going to form me into someone truly good.

The reality that Bonhoeffer points to is so powerful that we need to allow it to resound within. God calls us to himself in order that we may die to ourselves, to all our ways, all those things that we hold precious and value, but that do not reflect him. And while we could hope for nothing more in this life than for the one who set the stars in the sky and the world into motion, the very Creator of the universe to make ourselves his project, if we truly realize the extent of his intentions for us, then we should fear, we shoud feel uncomfortable. God’s claim on us is nothing short of death, and death is comprehensive and painful.

And yet we should still, as Paul puts it, let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Colossians 3.15). God’s work within us is truly an unsettling grace, but it is grace. We are to put to death the old self so that we be clothed in the new self renewed in his image. Again, what more could we hope for!


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