Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"LITTLE" GRACE IS NOT CHEAP GRACE

IS "LITTLE" GRACE MERELY "CHEAP" GRACE? Some who read this blog and receive "Grace Between the Lines" via e-mail (let me know if you'd like to receive my weekly e-journal with a request to bikehiker@yahoo.com) might have been astonished to see my previous post about grace ("Overhearing Grace") juxtaposed to selected quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. In CoD, Bonhoeffer develops the contrast between cheap grace and costly grace. Was what I was trying to describe as LITTLE grace, in fact, CHEAP grace? Is what I was trying to describe as BIG grace, in fact, COSTLY grace?

I don't think so...and I will try to explain, or at least try to describe LITTLE grace, particularly as it relates to Bonhoeffer's conception of cheap vs costly grace. Remember, I described BIG grace as saving grace. I described LITTLE grace as the myriad windows and unlikely openings to God's active presence, mercy, compassion, love.

In short: the LITTLE grace I describe is indicative--it indicates that God's mercy and love is present and at work; that God is neither absent nor confined.

LITTLE grace is signaling--it signals to all who bear or receive or experience it that there is something bigger, greater, higher, deeper happening that deserves consideration and invites a response.

LITTLE grace is evidencing. It is awakening. It is what John Wesley described as "preventing," or "prevenient" grace. It is preparatory. It leads toward. It softens the heart. It heightens sensitivity. It is the invitation to see, to recognize, to respond. It is the knock of Christ at the door.

LITTLE grace is also residual--indicating that someone or some institution may not currently embrace costly grace or be a Christian or of other particular faith at all, but that someone else or some other institution has borne grace to them, influenced and infused their life with enough grace that they cannot help convey at least some evidence of it, even unwittingly. They cannot help but bear some residual grace even if they personally do not embrace it--it is conveyed through how they were taught, trained, etc.

None of this is the same as CHEAP grace. If anything, LITTLE grace leads toward or issues from COSTLY grace.

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