Bonhoeffer on Discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “In the Synoptic Gospels the relationship between the disciples and their Lord is expressed almost entirely in terms of following him.” This is in contrast to religion in America, which is largely a consumer enterprise. Americans who think of themselves as Christians often describe their search for a more exciting sermon, more inspiring music, and more convenient church — but seldom describe themselves as following Jesus in any intentional, organized way. In fact “organized religion” has become associated with dry, irrelevant, impersonal institutionalism, rather than with intentional discipleship.

For those who express an interest in a more intense struggle to live a life of ultimate fulfillment, there is no match for a life of serious commitment to Jesus Christ. It is impossible to overestimate the profound transformation and deep satisfaction that is available to one who abandons all in order to become a fully-committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Make no mistake about Christian discipleship being easy. On the contrary, the Scriptures and the whole Christian tradition insist that the life of following Jesus begins with God’s infinite, unbounded grace, yet the would-be disciple’s response to that grace requires enormous courage and tenacity. It is often a shock to us to discover that Christian discipleship is intentional, disciplined, and just plain hard work — assuming it doesn’t kill us! Yet the resounding and unanimous testimony of disciples of Jesus for thousands of years, from every culture and from every flavor of Christianity (Anglican, Orthodox, Roman or Protestant) is that the intentional and disciplined life of following Jesus is not only worth it — but there are no competing alternatives. There is no Plan B.

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