The bottom line: A magnanimous pillar of reflection and insight for the presupposed disciple of Christ in the modern world.
Quite simply, The Cost of Discipleship is a timeless, treasured, and an elite book that stands head and shoulders above most of its peers.
The book is a theologically rich yet practical exposition on discipleship and the Christian walk by a genuine suffering servant of Christ. (The author voluntarily returned to Nazi Germany from the United States to preach the good news, only to be executed for his beliefs). This book not only challenges your imagination to consider what discipleship truly means, but also reveals how costly that choice becomes in contemporary society. In Bonhoeffer’s own words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
In contemplating what the words of Christ mean for believers in the 20th century, Bonhoeffer develops a gorgeous argument separated into four sections. Part I, “Grace and Discipleship” brings the reader back to the Biblical tradition to explore that grace cannot be separated from sin, and that genuine discipleship essentially means a rejection of one’s very life in pursuit of God. It is here that the author develops his profound idea of “costly grace.” In other words, “what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.” Part II, “The Sermon on the Mount” ends up being a wonderfully orchestrated exegesis of Christ’s words in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Here, what discipleship actually means in our day-to-day lives is explored, and this further expands on Part I. Parts III and IV, “The Messengers” and “The Church of Jesus Christ and the Life of Discipleship,” expand into interpersonal and group dynamics of discipleship. The book concludes with the chapter “The Image of Christ” where we learn how to regain our humanity by relinquishing our individualism.
The Cost of Discipleship is a gripping commentary on the demands of sacrifice and moral stability from a man whose life and reflections were idyllic articulations of Christ-centered leadership, driven by the force of committed Christian neighborliness and an imaginative sense of civic duty. In a modern world full of opinions, Bonhoeffer’s words written more than 50 years ago are as potent and powerful now as they were then. No longer are we fit to call ourselves “Christians” when we incessantly hop from branch to branch. As the author makes very plain, there are only two ways—Christ or the world—and to choose the latter invariably leads to death.
This is a highly inspirational, intellectually stimulating and empowering masterpiece that should be on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to embrace what it truly means to be an imitator of Christ. Read it, take notes, reflect on it, cherish it, and then read it again.
Prepare to be convicted.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal