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Today I want to continue my review of Jon Walker‘s recent book, Costly Grace. It is a contemporary view of German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s well-known work, The Cost of Discipleship.

Chapter 11 is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Transparency.”  Bonhoeffer put it this way:

“Complete truthfulness is only possible where sin has been uncovered, and forgiven by Jesus.  Only those who are in a state of truthfulness through confession of their sin to Jesus are not ashamed to tell the truth wherever it must be told.”

No doubt, some are thinking right now that there seemed to be an element of “deceit” with Bonhoeffer because he knowingly participated in the organization that was ultimately responsible for the assassin attempts on Adolf Hitler.  In doing so, his outward activities looked legitimate.

Walker began by stating the objective of Jesus based on Matthew 5:33-37:

To teach us that our ability to be honest in all situations is a refection of how much we trust Jesus.  Jesus commands you to follow the truth no matter where it leads.

Will we lie or tell the truth? Telling the truth is nit just condemning the lies of others.  Since Jesus is the “Truth”, our lies make us take a stand against Jesus.  When we come to Jesus, we do not invite him to our “turf.”  Rather, we must go to the “turf” of Jesus.

We can’t control the circumstances of the call; all we can do is respond.

And in the light of the truth, we cannot hide our sins from Jesus.  Yet, we do need to realize that we have fallen short of the perfect standards of Jesus.  Therefore (as seen in previous chapters), we fall on the grace of Jesus!  Thus, a state of desperateness causes us to cry out for the grace of God.  In the same way that the prophet Isaiah was cleansed and forgiven by the burning coal in Isaiah 6:7, we as well, can be cleansed and energized for the road of Christian discipleship.

Honesty with Jesus means self-denial and taking up our cross daily.  This must take place on an individual level and a corporate (church) level. Walker writes:

The fact is we cannot have true, authentic, Christian community without truth because our relationship with Jesus, the Truth, effects the truthfulness and transparency of our relationship with others.  It is only in this transparent community that we can see each other as we truly are, where we can grow up in Christ, speaking the truth in love as iron sharpens iron.

This kind of openness and transparency is probably the exception rather than the norm in twenty-first century American, evangelical churches. Yet, Jesus commands his followers to let their “yes be yes” and their “no be no.”  This is possible because…

We are living, breathing extensions of the Truth, telling the truth–“so help me God”–because the Truth of God is truly helping us to tell the truth.

Walker explains that oaths will often corrupt the truth in some way.  But if a person’s word cannot be trusted, then no oath is going to it make it truthful.  We are not called to manipulate the facts.  Rather, Walker writes…

  • Say only what is true.
  • Don’t imply that something is true when it isn’t.
  • Hypocrisy is just another way to lie.

That takes us to the question…

IS IT EVER APPROPRIATE TO TELL A LIE?

Walker takes us back to Nazi Germany.  Imagine if we are asked the question, Tell me, Christian, are you hiding any Jews in your attic?”  It is easy to get in a debate over “small” lies and “big” lies.  We can justify a falsehood because it saves a life.  But Walker argues that Bonhoeffer would say that the real issue is that we need to be forgiven because…

A lie is a lie, and a lie is a sin, and that brings us short of God’s standards.  Listen carefully to this:

Our arguments are to make the lie acceptable and we’ve long established that we cannot clean up our sin, even the little white lie that we tell.  But we’re looking the wrong way and that is exactly Bonhoeffer’s point.  When we look to Jesus, we see that our sins are forgiven, so stop arguing about the acceptability of any form of lie.  Just fall on the grace of Jesus.

There is no easy answer to why Bonhoeffer went from pacifism to active involvement in the organization that plotted the downfall of the tyrant, Hitler.  As I have stated in my Doctor of Ministry Thesis (much on it can be found on this blog site) that Bonhoeffer simply lived by the steps he outlined in his famous essay in 1933 where the third step of dealing with an oppressive government was to jam the spoke of the wheel, if needed.

In each and every situation, we are to listen to the voice of Jesus.  Do we open the door when the Nazi’s bang on it?  Only Jesus will let us know.

An example of Fallen Thinking…

This compromise won’t hurt anyone–in fact, it will help us all get along!

An example of Kingdom Thinking…

I have grace for God’s reality, n0t for my fantasies.

 

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