Scot McKnight brought up this excerpt a few days ago and I want to mention it here as well. It is from John Stott’s Basic Christianity written in 1958:
“‘Hostile to the church, friendly to Jesus Christ.’ These words describe large numbers of people, especially young people, today. They are opposed to anything which savours of institutionalism. They detest the establishment and its entrenched privileges. And they reject the church – not without some justification – because they regard it as impossibly corrupted by such evils.”
Or how about this one from a decade earlier:
“The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.” – Bonhoeffer The Cost of Discipleship
Hard to believe that was written in the 1940s. It sounds a lot like what we see today as well. How often does our evangelism shy away from talking about the committment it takes to be a Christian because we don’t want anyone to be terrified to live the Christian life, all the while converting people to nominal Christianity – “forgive my sins and I will live however I want”? We wind up with sick and weak Christians who fall away and we all wonder why people lost their commitment. Maybe they were never committed to Christ in the first place. Maybe they were committed to a watered down Gospel spoon fed to keep them perfectly balanced between knowing who Christ is but distant enough from him to not see any blood lest they be disturbed by what they see.
Let us never shy away from presenting people with all of who Christ is and not just the most attractive bits and pieces. In doing so, we will call them to an authentic, genuine faith in God that can only come with a serious commitment.
I am so glad people are finally talking about this, it is as if no one has noticed for the past few years. Everyone wants the groom but no one wants the bride. How easy to peddle that? The church is to be one with Christ. We cannot have one without the other. He does not want it that way. And neither do we.
That is a very insightful comment. Dead on.
When I read Bonhoeffer several years ago I was still very connected to a legalistic stream of thinking. They certainly had no problem talking about the narrow way.
Years later on the other side of the fence and I understand his words very well. When I only had to worry about the world of legalism I didn’t connect with his thoughts but when I look at the universal church I know what he means.