“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
“Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games or pop psychology. IT IS AN ACT OF FAITH in the God of grace.”
I had the opportunity to review The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning. I have wanted to read this book for quite some time, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was on it. I did a little digging to find out who Brennan Manning was and found that he had died just this year. He was born Richard Francis Xavier Manning, but he died Brennan Manning.
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”
What’s a ragamuffin, you ask? I have the definition in the author’s own words:
“Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them—fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”
“As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me…God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”
There are such wonderful quotes in this book that define the book, the Gospel of Jesus, and who we are. It’s hard to pick just a few.
“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.”
If you only had one other book, besides your Bible, it should be this one. A book who defines YOU in the simplest of terms so that you can grasp who you are and how much God loves you.
“For Ragamuffins, God’s name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair – for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.”
Manning calls out the church of North America, one who’s preaching a nicey-nice Gospel that requires nothing of the believer except that if they believe they’ll be rich, then God will give it to them. He calls out the Catholic Church for their doctrine of fear and of going to hell for every thought not of God. I was struck and agree with his quote on the matter.
“The North American Church is at a critical juncture. The gospel of grace is being confused and compromised by silence, seduction, and outright subversion. The vitality of the faith is being jeopardized. The lying slogans of the fixers who carry religion like a sword of judgment pile up with impunity. Let ragamuffins everywhere gather as a confessing Church to cry out in protest. Revoke the licenses of religious leaders who falsify the idea of God. Sentence them to three years in solitude with the Bible as their only companion.”
Reading this book reminds me that the Gospel and God’s ability to love me isn’t logical. I can’t grasp it with my mind. I think that’s why my atheist friends can’t understand my faith. It doesn’t make sense to them. Well, the truth is, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s what faith is all about.
“Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.”
One of the stories that touched me was the story found in John 8:1-11, where a woman is brought to Jesus and is on the verge of being stoned. When Jesus confronts her accusers, after writing in the sand, he turns to find them gone. He asks the woman where her accusers are and she replies that they have left without accusing her. Jesus doesn’t wait for her confession or promise of repentance; he absolves her in her present condition and advises her to sin no more. That, my friends, is amazing grace!
“Authentic faith leads us to treat others with unconditional seriousness and to a loving reverence for the mystery of the human personality. Authentic Christianity should lead to maturity, personality, and reality. It should fashion whole men and women living lives of love and communion. False, manhandled religion produces the opposite effect. Whenever religion shows contempt or disregards the rights of persons, even under the noblest pretexts, it draws us away from reality and God.”
If the question is whether or not I recommend this book. The answer is a resounding YES! And, as a bonus, Manning has included in the 2005 version of the book, an update 15 years after the original publication and 19 Mercies-A Spiritual Retreat, for a meditative devotion.