“Cheap Grace is the Grace We Bestow on Ourselves”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned the words, “Cheap Grace is the Grace We Bestow on Ourselves.”  Bonhoeffer spoke movingly of the danger of “cheap grace” as opposed to the real grace modeled in Jesus.

It is easy to commoditize “grace”, treating it as a thing to be had, or gotten, or bought.  In other words, treating grace as something we bestow on ourselves.  Yet God’s grace is far different.  True grace arrives as something loving bestowed not clutched and held.

It’s arrival I picture as a soft, still blanket, gently placed, as we humbly bend to the earth and compassionately serve.  The Irish poet John O’Donohue penned these words, words which for me, capture some of that essence of grace, true grace.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Those who I know to be grace-full carry that “invisible cloak”, “words of love” wrapped around them which mind their life.

Last night, as we often do, we cooked dinner for the families at the Ronald McDonald House.  I have traveled there dozens of times and each time is new.  The newness comes from a witnessing of grace.  See here is the paradox.  There is nothing as difficult as what one sees or experiences at a place like the Ronald McDonald House – sick, very sick children.  And, at the same time as awfulness beyond measure becomes apparent, so does grace – not cheap grace but real grace.

Now the grace comes in many ways.  One wheel chair bound girl wore slippers, not just any slippers but doggy slippers – brown, floppy ears sown on.  One of our group asked what she wanted for dinner – her reply – “tacos.”  His response “Is there a Taco Bell nearby?”  (Unfortunately there was not.)  See right there are two examples of simple, profound, quiet, overwhelming grace.  A deeply loved child for whom someone had made or purchased these smilingly goofy slippers.  And a stranger very willing to simply serve with no agenda.  Two examples of grace.

And the night abounded with example after example.  In the midst of unbearable breaking – blessing after blessing.  Grace after grace.

That does not of course mitigate the pain of the children and their families.  It does however, give a glimpse into God’s grace: “..words of love around you,
an invisible cloak to mind your life.”


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