October 26, 2014


You shall love the Lord your God… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.    – Mt. 22: 37, 39

   Jesus considered the love of a God who loves us unconditionally to be “the pearl of great price.” In our own time, it has been said that the consolations of religion are being sought at “cut-rate” prices; that too many Christians are looking for cheap grace. Cheap grace means that the love of God is taken to be an idea rather than an experience. It means that the forgiveness of God is accepted without genuine repentance. Cheap grace is grace without obedience.

   Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran minister executed by the Nazis, put it this way: “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living Christ. Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the Church.” Knowing that God loves us unconditionally & that He wants us to have eternal life isn’t enough. His grace must be received with obedience & discipleship.

   God does not offer us His grace because we have earned it, but as a sheer gift. Still, it does not become real to us until we accept it through obedience & discipleship. The commandments are the directions for life God gives to those who are willing to accept the gift.  Jesus came to show us how to interpret God’s commandments in a positive rather than a negative way.

   The negative approach to our relationship with God is based on the mistaken notion that we somehow must earn God’s love. It is the burden we impose on ourselves when we grimly try to live up to His commandments & the sermon on the mount out of a sense of obligation. Jesus wants us to understand that the offer of the life we long for is never withdrawn. It is ours for the taking if we do so in an attitude of openness to the directions that come with it.

   There was nothing new about the two commandments our Lord quoted in response to the Pharisee’s question. What was different was His effectively combining them into one commandment. In so doing, He is saying that love of God and neighbor is inseparable, & there was no precedent for this interpretation of the Law in rabbinical teachings.

   In his work, Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen related this incident:

Then he said, “It is good to be here,” & I said, “Yes, it is good to be together again,” & after that we were silent again for a long period. As a deep peace filled the empty space between us he said hesitantly, “When I look at you it is as if I am in the presence of Christ.” I did not feel startled, surprised or in need of protesting, but I could only say, “It is the Christ in you who recognizes the Christ in me.”

   “Yes,” he said, “He is indeed in our midst,” & then he spoke the words which entered into my soul as the most healing words I had heard in many years. “From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground.”

   Through our obedience & our discipleship, God’s sheer gift of grace will become real to us, & from then on, wherever we go, we will be on the holy ground of oneness with our fellow humans & oneness with our God!  AMEN!