Dietrich Bohnoeffer, the German pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his role in the Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler (famously-known as “Operation Valkyrie”), preached against what he called “cheap grace,” a grace without discipleship, without the cross, “without,” in his words,”Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” It is the kind of grace we bestow upon ourselves without doing a lot of the prerequisite work. And it is truly more than just a few sacred words spoken before a meal.
It might be too easy to define what grace is not. Fortunately, through, we have a guide to help us see what grace actually is: Grace is Greater: God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story by Kyle Idleman.
Idleman, Teaching Pastor at Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church, has written a concise guide about the experience of grace. It is by no means a theological discussion on the doctrine of grace, but over its 188 pages Idleman explains how grace has worked in his own life and in the lives of others whose stories he shares.Grace is, as he states, “best and most fully understood not by way of explanation alone but through experience.”
The grace Idleman invites us to experience is definitely not the cheap kind Bonhoeffer spoke of. There’s work involved – confessing sins, admitting weaknesses, releasing regrets and anger and bitterness and vengeance. God’s grace is greater than all of these and more. The trick is to finally open up and accept it, to stop, as Idleman states:
“. . .trying to outrun God because because he’s chasing you to collect what you owe – when he’s really chasing you to give you what you could never afford.”
That gift of grace is, as Idleman describes throughout the book with stories and scripture, is beautiful, redemptive, healing, forgiving, peaceful, powerful, and hopeful. In short, it is greater than anything that keeps us from experiencing it.
“It is a terrible thing to think of the grace that is wasted in this world,” Thomas Merton wrote in The Seven Storey Mountain, “and of the people that are lost.” Too many of us are uncomfortably cocooned in our sins, bitterness, anger, disappointments, and so much more that we become poisoned, lost.
Hebrews 12:15 instructs us to “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” And Kyle Idleman’s Grace is Greater can be a way to cut ourselves out of that cocoon and accept a gift that we need.