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Cheap Grace

Today’s Reflection

I WONDER: Can it be that many Christians have lost the freedom that comes with grace because we have lost the ability to acknowledge our sins and therefore cannot really experience or express our forgiveness? … We are no longer certain of how to converse about the brokenness that affects us one and all. While many maintain that the last century has been quite arguably the most evil age in human history, even some secular observers have noted that we no longer have a working vocabulary to discuss it. …

The problem seems especially acute of late, but warnings were sounded generations ago – especially in the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who coined the term “cheap grace”:

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle. … It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth. … no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.

In our own time, cheap grace seems to be expressed mainly in terms of “acceptance” and “tolerance.” All are beautiful in their own way; each and every one is fine just the way he or she is. The problem with this kind of language is that it is demonstrably false. People already know, deep down, that they are flawed, that their lives are full of misdeeds and missed opportunities, that they have fallen short not only of the glory of God but also of their own expectation. We experience sin, which is to say we sin and are sinned against – but we have lost a way to talk about it. And if we cannot talk about it, we cannot be freed of the experience or its consequences.

– Thomas R. Steagald
Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn

From pages 76-77 of Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus by Thomas R. Steagald. Copyright © 2010 by Thomas R. Steagald. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.

Today’s Question

Do you find it difficult to talk about your sins? Share your thoughts.

Today’s Scripture

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1, NRSV

This Week: pray for those who lack access to clean water. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section below.

Did You Know?

In need of prayer? The Upper Room Living Prayer Center is a 7-day-a-week intercessory prayer ministry staffed by trained volunteers. Call 1-800-251-2468 or visit The Living Prayer Center web site.

Saints, Inc.:

This week we remember: Polycarp (February 23).

Lectionary Readings

(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

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{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Rusty February 24, 2016, 5:31 am

    Carol, prayers for you as you go though these difficult times. Even though you may feel passive in this season of contemplation and reflection, to me, your action in caring and praying for those close to you speaks volumes about what we can learn from Jesus’s time of trials in the wilderness. Thank you, Carol ay you find strength in Jesus during this season.

    Thanks, Jill, for your thoughts and encouragement. My dental procedure went very well yesterday.The dentist has inspiring posters on his ceiling (like the one about walking with Jesus, looking back to see only one set of footsteps – and realizing he’s been carrying you) that helped me stay focused on him throughout. A blessing.

    Bonhoeffer’s notion of cheap grace is so important. I believe I probably do have difficulty talking about my own sins (human nature and avoidance of embarrassment?), but coming from a non-religious childhood perhaps I have fewer hang ups than some regarding the topic. Also, I personally find help in the Litany of Humility as a way to acknowledge sin and then hopefully act (rather, than being immobilized by guilt over it).

    Grateful for the openness and love shared by my UR family members here.

  • robert moeller February 24, 2016, 5:40 am

    Thankful for a good trip to see my son Erich and a safe trip home. Thankful for messages and pictures from Jenny. Anneliese has had good days while I have been gone. Thankful that preparations have gone well. Thank You, Lord.

    I agree with today’s message. I don’t think in my life time it has been easy to talk about my personal sin with almost everyone. Fortunately I had an experience where that was possible and it helped me develop a deeper faith.
    It would be extremely helpful if we all could confess our sins to one another and be forgiven. Having fellow believers who understand this concept and thus can be helpers seems to be essential.

    Prayers for those who need clean water.With our recent loss of water for a few days, that need became more real. It was a costly experience.

    Today we learn what time Anneliese needs to be at the hospital for her hip replacement surgery tomorrow. Prayers that God is with us through it all.
    All will be well when we are in God’s hands. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

    • Rusty February 24, 2016, 6:38 am

      Prayers, Robert, for Annaliese. May these final preparation hours go smoothly and peacefully for her, for you, and for your family. And may the surgeons skillfully perform their task, tomorrow, guided by God. You are in our thoughts and prayers, friend.

  • robert moeller February 24, 2016, 5:55 am

    Thankful for the opportunity to read yesterday’s posts. Hebrews 11 is on my to read list, enjoyed the comments, and am thankful for the prayers for Anneliese. Hope Jill has the beach experience she seeks.

    There’s a wide diversity of thought among all believers. Remember both Republicans and Democrats are in our congregations, with that political spectrum, a religious spectrum is also reality. We wouldn’t need prayers for Christian unity otherwise.

  • Sara February 24, 2016, 7:42 am

    Thankful to receive Upper Room Reflections again, a new day, family and friends.

    Robert, prayers for Anneliese as she has surgery tomorrow and pray that all goes well for her. Prayers for others with the UR that I missed for a couple days. I pray for those who don’t have access to clean drinking water and unfortunately it happened in the US too. Make us aware, Lord, how precious our resources are and to preserve them for future generations.

    I strive with God’s help to live a life pleasing to God, but do fail at times and ask God’s forgiveness. Sin, I feel sin is not mentioned as much as when I was younger. Am I wrong, but stressing too much about sin can bring guilt and condemnation and God isn’t about condemnation, but about love and forgiveness. Any insights on this?

    God’s blessing and love today to the UR family.

    • Rusty February 24, 2016, 8:57 am

      Sara – when you have a moment, please take a look at Romans 8:35-39. It’s about how nothing can come between you and the love of God. Also, I love the phrase, “there is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.” Philip Yancey has a nice piece about that on the Internet. Also, his book The Jesus I Never Knew is very helpful on that.

  • Sara February 24, 2016, 10:08 am

    Thank you, Rusty for the info. The phrase you mention is wonderful! Thanks!

  • carol February 24, 2016, 2:45 pm

    The bible says that what isn’t of faith is sin! Many of us in the body of Christ don’t get to speak because no one is asking questions. The lack of daily counsel is sad. How can Jesus counsel us through others, if no one is asking important questions.?

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