The Ragamuffin Gospel Book Review Part 3
The following is the last installment of our review and summary of 'The Raggamuffin Gospel' by Father Brennan Manning. To read the first two installments, click here.
The Raggamuffin Gospel Review and Summary Chapters 8-11
Chapter 8: Freedom From Fear
Pastor Brennan Manning begins chapter 8 with a parable from famed Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky's seminal novel The Brother Karamozov. In the parable within the book, Jesus comes back to 19th century Russia only to be arrested by the parable's Grand Inquisitor. Upon his arrest, the Grand Inquisitor asks Jesus, "why have you come to disturb us?"
Manning's point to include this somewhat obscure piece of seminal Russian literature is to say that, after 1,500 years, the Church from the parable -- an analogous placeholder for the modern-day Church -- had become a religious institution that replaced Jesus with their Ecclesiastical, worldly traditions.
Manning explains this usurping of Christ and worship of clerical doctrine essentially makes many churches and partitioners into slaves of religion rather than followers of Christ.
As we all know, Jesus was not a fan of the worshiping religious traditions. On the contrary, he was opposed to the idol worship of the Church and taught in the book of John that we should instead seek freedom from such worldly-based religious traditions.
Chapter 9 - 10: The Second Call, The Victorious Limp
Whether it's a mid-or-quarter life crisis, a tenured professor re-examining their entire life's work, or a student changing their whole life's course by suddenly switching their major, many people -- regardless of age, sex, or social stature -- undergo what Manning calls, a second journey. This literal "come to Jesus moment" in life can be a daunting and even terrifying realization; however, Manning instructs his readers to embrace this change as it is likely a call from God.
The second call is a summons to a more profound, more mature commitment of faith where the naïveté, first fervor, and untested idealism of the morning and the first commitment have been seasoned with pain, rejection, failure, loneliness, and self-knowledge.
As the Latin proverb has instructed us through millennia, "fortune favors the bold." Or, as Manning so eloquently puts it, "God longs for someone daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burned in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phoney we are."
Chapter 11: A Touch of Folly
"In a world that is torn and tearing, it takes a touch of folly to believe that "even when our choices are destructive and their consequences hurtful, God's love remains unwavering. Thus, regardless of our own insulation and defensiveness, God is constantly open and vulnerable to us."
In the opening pages of Chapter 11, Manning explains that shortly after moving from his home in Clearwater, Florida, to New Orleans in 1982, he discovered that the phrase "born again" was scarcely used by 19th century, Deep Southern Christians. Rather, as he learned through going through old archives of century-old church documents, Christians in the late 1800s opted for a much more impactful phrase: "I was seized by the power of great affection."
As Manning points out, the latter phrase much more embodies what it means to break through into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. "I was seized by the power of a great affection" is also a much more literal translation of what being "born again" is meant to describe: the initiative of God and the overwhelming grace and power of accepting the might of Jesus into our hearts. Or, as Manning puts it, "An authentic conversion and the release of the Holy Spirit.
In the final chapter, 'A Touch of Folly,' Manning posits that to truly "be seized by the power of Jesus's great affection," one must accept and reciprocate the ridiculous, crazy, and absurd love that Jesus offers.
As citizens of a global society stricken by the evilest mankind have to offer on a daily and continual basis, it takes a "touch of folly" to accept that God's love is unwavering -- even in the face of humanity's most destructive and harmful tendencies. But, of course, this "folly" is a misnomer; the atheistic and cynical perception of secular beliefs. From the world's worldly point of view, it takes a person with folly to trade everything for the mad love of God. From those who have been rebirthed in the great affection and all-mighty power of Jesus's grace and unwavering love for all humankind, it takes a person of folly to acquiesce to the insanity that is life without it.
So, What Have We Learned?
It is only through our relationship with Jesus that we can ever truly be saved. While this is a statement all Christians understand and accept, many of us fall short of what it means to walk with Christ and live by his teachings. All too often, we Christians stunt our development and growth in our relationship with Christ by beating ourselves up or judging other followers who fail to live up to the so-called "standards" of church doctrine. In doing so, we pull away from the path that Jesus has set for us.
Fortunately for his children, however, this is not the way Jesus wants us to live, nor is this the life that he expects us to live. There is no tallying system in which Jesus keeps track of his follower's indiscretions. In fact, as author Brennan Manning has put forth to his readers, it's quite the opposite. "Only when we truly embrace God's grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the neediest of His flock -- the "raggamuffins."
No matter the sin or the sinner who sinned it, God gives all of his flock the same undying grace. We, no matter how pious or sinful, are all "Raggamuffins" in his eyes. Therefore, it is only with our humility and understanding of his "furious love" that we can access the full bounty of God's graciousness.
The Raggamuffin Gospel is more than just a 30-day journey by which we can meditate and follow -- it serves as a testament to those who fall short of God's eternal grace; a reminder that no matter who we were are or what we've done, God's grace is already a reward he has eternally given us.