True Discipleship

‘At first he was aware enough of his disobedience, but with his increasing hardness of heart that awareness grows ever fainter, and in the end he becomes so enmeshed that he loses all capacity for hearing the Word, and faith is quite impossible.  One can imagine him conversing thus with his pastor: “I have lost the faith I once had.”  You must listen to the Word as it is spoken to you in the sermon.”  I do; but I cannot get anything out of it, it just falls on deaf ears as far as I am concerned.”  “The trouble is, you don’t really want to listen.”  “On the contrary, I do.”  And here they generally break off, because the pastor is at a loss what to say next.  He only remembers the first half of the proposition:  “Only those who believe obey.”  But this does not help, for faith is just this particular man finds impossible. The pastor feels himself confronted with the ultimate riddle of predestination.  God grants faith to some and withholds it from others.  So the pastor throws up the sponge and leaves the poor man to his fate.  And yet this ought to be the turning-point of the interview.  It is the complete turning point.  The pastor should give up arguing with him, and stop taking his difficulties seriously.  That will really be in the man’s own interest, do he is only trying to hide hehind them.  It is now time to take the bull by the horns, and say: “Only those who believe.”  Thus the flow of the conversation is interrupted, and the pastor can continue: “You are disobedient, you are trying to keep some part of your life under control. That is what is preventing you from listening to Christ and believing in His grace.  You cannot hear Christ because you are wilfully disobedient.  Somewhere in your heart you are refusing to listen to His call.’

——— Dietrich Bonehoeffer

——— “The Cost of Discipleship”

——— p. 69

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