It still feels weird to be writing about or thinking about anything other than the fires and destruction in our home town. It is hard to imagine what the next few weeks will be like when the fires are out and the people whose homes remain are able to go home while those whose homes have been destroyed try to figure out what to do.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29 ESV)
Romans 8:28 is one of the most often quoted verses when people are experiencing difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, it most often quoted without verse 29 and without that context what Paul writes comes across as either trite or insulting. Bonhoeffer closes The Cost of Discipleship with a chapter exploring Romans 8:29.
To those who have heard the call to be disciples of Jesus Christ is given the incomprehensibly great promise that they are to become like Christ. They are to bear his image as the brothers and sisters of the firstborn Son of God. To become “like Christ”—that is what disciples are ultimately destined to become. – The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The thing that stuck with me as I read through this chapter is the concept of “the image of his son”.
The image of God is the image of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is into this image that the disciple’s life must be transformed. – The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I think Bonhoeffer is right. Many passages like this are addressed to the church as a community, but this one is addressed to individual disciples. So how does a disciple become conformed to the image of Jesus? I can try really hard to act like Jesus, and it most cases it is just that, an act. I can try to love like Jesus, but quickly self-centeredness gets in the way. I need help. I need circumstances I can’t control and the determination to submit to the Holy Spirit in how I respond to those circumstances.
On Monday this week we learned how little control we have over our physical dwelling and all that is in it. Our house should be gone. I’m a fool if I think that my retirement accounts are any more secure. My desire is to become more and more like Jesus. I’m reminded everyday how much work must be done for that to be accomplished. I am grateful for this promise because it reassures me that in desiring this I am desiring what God has promised.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer made some choices later in his life in pursuit of this goal that are very difficult to understand given what he wrote in this book. Actively participating in the effort to assassinate Hitler seems contrary to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. The only thing I can think is that Bonhoeffer felt that possibly giving his life to save the lives of the Jews was a Christ-like thing to do. He did give his life and now he is perfectly conformed to the image of the son in eternity. I cannot judge his choices when I know I know how much I struggle with much simpler and less significant ones.
There is a cost to discipleship. I pray that more and more I’ll be willing to pay the price because of the price that Jesus paid for me.