Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace in his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship.
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost!
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods…
Costly grace is the Gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it costs God the life of His Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs …
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship”, pp. 45-48).
What's Cheap grace look like today?
I think we could say that Cheap grace is looking for Jesus to be your savior, your pal (think Dogma's Buddy Jesus), the one who gives you all the things the world holds dear. It's seeing him as the safe Jesus who never bothers you and never makes demands, rather than the King who died for you, the King who declares "it is finished", the King who bled and died and rose again and calls you to turn to him in faith, to repent and believe and then live for him out of gratitude, understanding that a whole new treasure is set before you.