I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (English Standard Version)
Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. From The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
I recently had the opportunity to hear televangelist Michael Freeman use a verse from James Cleveland’s “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired”; you know the part that says, “Nobody told me the road would be easy”. This line was sung (not in a favorable tone) to support Freeman’s contention that we should “speak” a smoother road to travel into our lives. Okay….
Freeman’s one of a plethora of “Word of Faith” ministers you hear on the “Christian” channels on the TV; a breed you can find lots of info online. When I heard his aforementioned sermon, my jaw almost hit the floor. First, I was offended that Freeman insulted a very truthful hymn written by such a Divinely-inspired creative as James Cleveland. And second, my mind immediately raced to the above verse from John where Jesus/God didn’t promise us a rose garden (with a nod to Lynn Anderson). Jesus explicitly told his disciples that life was going to have troubles.
Throughout Scripture, we hear over and over about the trials that come with this package deal called “Life”. The road of life is not an easy one-especially for those on this road trip called the Christian journey. And like many a road trip we’re going to go over rough roads, dark roads, long detours, switchbacks (for us hikers), breakdowns, lack of supplies…you name it. However, Freeman and his ilk preach a doctrine that we can “speak into” our lives that what we desire, and that God’s supposed to back His/Her Word and oblige. Which means that where Jesus spoke “road trip”; Freeman (and company) speak a guided tour on an comfortable climate controlled bus with God as our tour guide, where we stay in fancy lodging every night, eat at great restaurants, and visit all the hot tourist spots while zipping down the Interstate…
I wonder if Brother Michael and gang ever read Brother Dietrich? If Bonhoeffer were alive today, he’d choke at this “cheap grace” which pervades modern Western Christendom. To piggyback Bonhoeffer, we want: the Crown without the Cross; Easter Sunday without Good Friday; the “Abundant Life” without being poor in spirit; gain without pain; presents from God without the presence of God; judgment without justice; testimonies without tests; joy without tears; reward without work; leadership without servanthood; the list can go on all night…
And the danger with such doctrine is that many in the West-especially among people of color, women, and those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are sucking this up like biscuits sopping up gravy. People who may have been dogged by life now get a false notion that God’s supposed to make life work the way they want it to, instead of God navigating them though life-the good and the bad. Then when life throws them a curve ball and things fall apart, what then? How many souls have been wounded-sometimes to the point of no return-because of such faulty teaching?
As we’re still deep in the heart of the Lenten Season, let’s take the time to ask God to empower us to take this Christian road trip, confident that He/She is with us-no matter how rough the pavement (or lack thereof).