We got the rejection notices late on Thursday night: Facebook and YouTube flagged our church’s Easter video for violence. Part of the language YouTube used to reject our video was, “Appearing to profit from a tragic event with no discernible benefit to users.” The scenes they deemed too disturbing with “no discernible benefit” were reenactments of the crucifixion of Jesus. They were filmed a few weeks ago in the Mojave desert with the intent of helping us all understand the incredible gift of grace.
You can watch the scenes for yourself here.
If I were able to have the privilege of a conversation with the people at Facebook and YouTube, it’s the gift part I’d want to joyfully help them see, because the benefits of grace are beyond measure: salvation and resurrection to a life lived fully alive that will never end, love beyond measure and new mercy every day just to name a few.
But to fully understand the value of the benefits of grace, I could not possibly skip describing the cost.
At 10, 9, and 7 years old, my kids are too young to understand the value of pretty much well, anything. Given the choice of a candy bar or a car, they’d take the candy bar ten times out of ten, especially if it’s covered in chocolate. The only way for them to understand value is to tell them the cost.
Most adults, even those who’ve been around Christian circles for most of their lives, don’t understand the value of grace. Why? Because few of us have taken a hard look at the cost. Increasingly, I hear a gospel preached that offers freedom without sacrifice, resurrection without crucifixion, and a new life without confronting the deadly reality of the old one and my starring role in that death.
This is why, while I didn’t like the speed bump of appealing1 their rulings nor do I agree that large technology companies should be limiting free speech or censoring churches, I am thankful Facebook and YouTube saw and called out what so many seem to miss: the cost of grace was offensively high: the violent taking of the very life of the Son of God. Nothing has ever cost more.
An archaeologist friend of mine, Bob Rognilien, has spent decades of his life researching the life of Jesus in the Middle East. His aim is to come face to face with the literal realities of Jesus and let those shape his faith rather than the glossy modernized version of Jesus who asks little and offers little in return.
He posted a quote to Facebook a few days ago from Deitrich Bonhoeffer, a German believer who was executed by the Nazis for his role in an assassination attempt on Hitler, about the high cost of grace and the absolute necessity of remembering it. Ironically, they allowed it to stay:
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it, a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Friends at Facebook and YouTube, yes, the cost of grace was violent and high, but the benefits of grace are beyond measure. If any of you are reading this and want to know more, I’d love to chat. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 After an appeals process, both approved our video for promotion. YouTube, however, did flag another section of our video for COVID misinformation. It referenced an article from Scientific American about the negative mental health effects of the pandemic. We merely agreed with their findings and empathized with the difficult experience many of us have had over the past year. In the end, to ensure we had an Easter video published in time, we edited that section out.