“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
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. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.
While there is much we may have earned–our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.”
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.”
Brennan Manning, Quoted from The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
Last night I learned that Brennan Manning had died. I will forever be grateful to Mr. Manning for his writing. I believe I have read his full body of work, some books more than once, and few authors, if any, have helped me understand grace more clearly than Brennan.
He was an imperfect man who stumbled and limped through life. He wasn’t what many of us would envision when we think of the ‘victorious Christian’, yet that’s exactly what he was. He got up one more time than he stumbled, and this last time he got up to enter into the arms of his Abba. Brennan Manning knew that he was completely dependent on the grace of God, and the ‘relentless tenderness of Jesus’…Only when you and I realize that too, will we truly be victorious.
Very often as I read the writings of Mr. Manning I found myself cringing. I think grace often does that. One would think that as we reflect on the good news of Jesus Christ, and the grace with which he has lavished upon us, we would be quick to embrace it. Far too often though, that isn’t the case. Sometimes grace is just as hard to accept as it is to give. Most times we Christians talk a good game about grace, but in practice we leave much to be desired. This is just as true of ourselves as it is of others. We know God forgives…but does he really forgive like that? God is full of grace, but even when I’ve done this?
Yes…even then. This is truly the good news. The grace of God poured out through Jesus Christ is even more amazing than we could ever have imagined. Perhaps a cringe is often the proper response to a grace this amazing…it is meant to astound us. But don’t stop there. Meditate on this cringe-worthy grace…this Gospel that is utterly unbelievable…and fall on your knees before a God who loves and forgives in a way that is completely beyond our understanding…
Thank you Brennan Manning for helping me to see this a little more clearly…
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Another very enjoyable, and edifying read from Manning. After reading ‘Ragamuffin Gospel’ a few months ago I went out and bought everything of Manning’s I could find. As in all of Manning’s works I was in awe of the love of God, and His grace in not only saving me from my sin, but loving me in spite of my sin.
While I believe Mr. Manning and I would disagree in some areas theologically(though we’ve never discussed it :)) I wish more folks from my own “camp” would preach more about the love of God, and focus more on loving His people, and spend more time talking about that aspect(love, mercy, tenderness) of His character, and how that ought to flow out of us. Doctrine without love is worthless, and a theology devoid of love is really no theology at all. I too fell(fall) into this trap myself, and am thankful for stumbling onto Mr. Manning’s work.
I love Brennan Manning’s honest and straightforward style. He is a man with a lifetime of experiences across many areas and various church and denominational lines. This book didn’t contain a ton of new insights, as many of his books tend to repeat themselves, still I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to others.
“Imagine that Jesus is calling you today. He extends a second invitation–to accept His Father’s love. And maybe you answer, “Oh, I know that. It’s old hat. I’ve come to this book seeking an insight in a fit of fervor. I’m wide open. I’ll listen to anything you have to say, so go ahead, dazzle me. Lay a new word on me. I know the old one.”
And God answers, “That’s what you don’t know. You don’t know how much I love you. The moment you think you understand is the moment you do not understand. I am God, not man. You tell others about Me–that I am a loving God. Your words are glib. My words are written in the blood of My only Son. The next time you preach about My love with such obnoxious familiarity, I may come and blow your whole prayer meeting apart. When you come at Me with studied professionalism, I will expose you as a rank amateur. When you try to convince others that you understand what you are talking about, I will tell you to shut up and fall flat on your face. You claim you know I love you.
Did you know that every time you tell Me you love me, I say thank you?
When your son comes to you asking, “Do you like Susan more ’cause she skates better and she’s a girl?” are you grieved and saddened over your child’s lack of trust? Do you know that you do the same thing to Me?
Do you claim to know what we shared when Jesus withdrew to a deserted place or spent the night on a hillside alone with Me? Do you know from where the inspiration to wash the feet of the Twelve came? Do you understand that, motivated by love alone, your God became your slave in the Upper Room?
Were you grieved by the divine command to Abraham that he slay his only begotten Isaac on Mount Moriah? Were you relieved when the angel intervened, Abraham’s hand was stayed, and the sacrifice was not carried out? Have you forgotten that on Good Friday no angel intervened? That sacrifice was carried out, and it was My heart that was broken.
Are you aware that I had to raise Jesus from the dead on Easter morning because my love is everlasting? Are you serenely confident that I will raise you, too, My adopted child?
Faith means you want God and want to want nothing else…”
-Brennan Manning from The Ragamuffin Gospel