The great scholar and Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton observed, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Responding to Christ’s call is never easy. We have a hard enough time doing the basics such as praying and being charitable, let alone denying ourselves and taking up our crosses!

But Christ never promised us that discipleship would be easy. In fact, he taught us that to be a disciple is to pay a price.

In his book The Cost of Discipleship, the Lutheran martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer–who died at age 39 in 1945 at the hands of the Gestapo in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg–explains that the greatest enemy of discipleship is “cheap grace.” The kind of grace that showers blessings without asking questions, fixing limits, or requiring action. The kind of grace that offers forgiveness of sin without transforming the sinner, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without contrition, discipleship without the Cross. Simply put: Cheap grace is grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

True discipleship, Bonhoffer explains, is a costly grace—costly because it calls us to follow, grace because it calls us to embrace the source of life. Costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it forgives the sinner. Costly because the Son was rejected and killed, and grace because in dying Jesus revealed that the cross is not the end but the beginning.

The reward of discipleship is that we die to the self that we have created and find the self that exists as a living, breathing image of the divine. We let go of the possessions that weigh us down and we become free to live more fully. We find our truest selves, and in turn, we help others find theirs in everyday life and in extraordinary ways.

How can we respond to Christ’s call more fully? What obstacles stand in our way? How can we become better agents of love and healing—even in simple ways day to day?

—Jeremy Langford, Director of Communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.