Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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cheap graces

I always loved that part of the theologian Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship in which he talks about "cheap grace". Cheap grace is that little bit of salvation one confers upon oneself, to be distinguished from the true grace that, in Bonhoeffer's view, arises from the strict Christian life.

Bonhoeffer's early work was a bit stern, but the metaphor is fascinating. Although in pastor Bonhoeffer's view, "cheap grace" is a temporizing insufficiency, essentially an evil, I've found the notion very comforting to me over the years. Let's take today, for example. Working on a Friday merely because it happens to be the Friday which could have been part of a four day weekend is not a particularly saintly thing to do. I certainly could have realigned my work so that I could have taken the four day weekend. But somehow, I feel saved, just a little bit, because I am in my office pounding away. I mean, true saints pound away on July 5. Well, actually, this moment I am pounding away at a LiveJournal post, but you get the idea.

Over time, I've also been "saved in small ways" by putting spare change at the dollar store in the literacy fund jar, by providing pet treats to my dogs at unexpected moments, and by being able to use google to figure out that I did see a dickcissel bird yesterday at the prairie. I am not sure which circle of heaven this qualifies me for, but I hope that it comes with nice porthole windows. Heaven is a Carnival cruise, you know, and a berth away from the pounding disco from which you can see the fog-wrapped island is grace enough, cheap though it might be. It's not that I don't recognize the point that "ultimate meaning" may be more than patting oneself on the back for pointless things. No matter what one's theology--or lack thereof--there's something appealing about that pauline concept that some inner core of faith, rather than punching the moral clock, is what ultimately saves us. I love the idea of losing oneself to save one's soul. But today, and perhaps more than today, I will type away in a world in which the path to Heaven types on Corel Wordperfect software, hikes on pristine grass meadows, and in a burst of rare non-bashfulness, says a kind word to a stranger.

It's a rather roundabout way to Heaven, but some days cheap graces are my most effective defense against small and large Hells.

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