The Freedom To Accept God's Grace: A Ragamuffin Gospel
Written by a former Franciscan Priest, The Ragamuffin Gospel is a seminal book that teaches Christians the essence of what it means to be truly Christ-like. The book’s author, Brennan Manning’s unique background and lifelong dedication to learning the teachings of Christ present the reader with an outlook that is as unique as the man himself.
For instance, despite what many of today’s Christians believe and how they operate, Manning posits that Jesus' gospel was one of grace and that efforts to earn salvation are impossibly misguided.
In The Raggamuffin Gospel, Brennan states that the true meaning of God's grace has been lost in society amidst a constant search to merely please God, as though the Almighty is only a "small-minded bookkeeper," who tallies sins and uses them against humanity.
In his writing, Brennan cites numerous biblical references and utilizes well-placed anecdotes to validate his theories further.
But most importantly, Brennan provides his readers with how to accept the freedom of God’s grace thus, granting his them the power to change not only their life but the life of others as well.
“To evangelize a person is to say to him or her: you, too, are loved by God in the Lord Jesus.”
In the following, we will briefly touch on what makes Brennan Manning’s seminal book the Ragamuffin Gospel so groundbreaking. Like all of our other book reviews, we will be breaking down the book chapter by chapter.
Chapter One: Something Is Radically Wrong
By now it’s no secret to anyone reading that author Brennan Manning has little respect or patience for the legalistic and frivolous traditions of many of today’s more puritanical churches.
Brennan delves deep into the misguided notion that sees many of today’s churches as unaccepting and lacking grace:
Too often, Christians co-opt the scriptures to exalt those they deem worthy and condemn those they feel are lesser due to their differences, shortcomings, and seeming indifference of adhering to their interpretation of how Christians should act.
As Brennan explains in the first 20 pages, this type of old-fashioned and austere discrimination is completely missing the point of Jesus’s entire message for us. Christ teaches, time and time again, the only authentic way to walk with God is to abide by and deliver the Gospel of Grace to everyone we come into contact with.
God, himself, loves every person he ever created. Therefore, Jesus forgave those who would otherwise be condemned to being stoned and regularly walked with the ostracized sinners deemed unfit for the rest of civilized society.
In modern terms, some of today’s Christians are akin to those in the bible who disenfranchised so-called sinners, such as Mary Magdeline -- who of course, Jesus accepted with unrequited love and acceptance.
There is a burning irony that lies within these modern-day follower’s willingness to read the words of Jesus in sermons while simultaneously engaging in the very discrimination that Jesus is explicitly teaching them to reject.
As the great words of Martin Luther tell us,” God’s righteousness was not for himself (passive) but “for the sake of Jesus Christ, God made sinners righteous (that is, active righteousness) through the forgiveness of sins in justification.”
Chapter 2: Magnificent Monotony
Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
Time and time again in the scriptures, from the Old to New Testament, God makes his unconditional love for us abundantly clear and undeniable. What many Christians get wrong, however, is that we’re supposed to love God because he demands it from us. This notion, of course, is simply a common fallacy.
The same can be said for many of us and our relationships with each other. Many of us strive for perfection, to be the most pious, the most popular because in so doing, we mistakenly believe this will make us more Christlike, and therefore, bring us closer to him.
However, this again is a common logical fallacy that many believers in Christ trap themselves in. As Brennan states on page 48, But to “accept myself as I am…is an act of faith in the God of grace.” In other words, love and closeness are not something we can have under threat or direct pressure from an almighty God.
God already loves us for the people he made us be. Therefore, we must see ourselves as already being accepted by God for who we are. In doing so, we abstain from the worldly bonds of pride, hunger for power.
Rather than acting in fear-based piety, we are no longer bound by the fear of God’s non-existent criticism. We are also freed from our desire to be a people pleaser -- especially with those in the church. But most importantly, we become grateful to be who we are, exactly how God intended, and therefore, grateful for the life he gave us; grateful for life.
Chapter 3: The Raggamuffin Gospel
This chapter is all about God’s fatherly love for Jesus and us, his children on earth. More specifically, though, this chapter is about how God’s, and therefore Jesus’s love for us, is that of an unconditionally loving father. A love that we do not need to seek out or attempt to earn. We already have it.
Much like we inherent and emulate many traits of our human fathers, so is the case with Jesus and his heavenly father.
He loves us because his father loves us. Like Jesus, we are created in God’s image. Like we are with our fathers on earth, Jesus is the reflection of his Father.
"Jesus does what He sees the Father doing; He loves those whom the Father loves."
Much like Christ emulates his father, we must emulate Jesus -- his actions here on earth in particular.
Brennan explains, rather than trying to earn our way into the kingdom of God, we should do our best to follow the teachings, and more importantly, the actions of our heavenly father.
Good fathers lead by example. Every day of his life, Jesus taught us how to love and act in Grace. Rather than shunning those the Jewish hierarchy considered outcasts, Jesus embraced them and enveloped them with the love he has inherent from his father. So too, must we when it comes to those around us.
"The kingdom belongs to people who aren't trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves."
We must follow in our father’s footsteps and do as he had done by acting out of grace rather than judgment. We must drop the atavistic traditions that burden us to act out of fear. Rather than trying to earn God’s will through self-righteous piety, we must break down the caste system of hierarchy from within the church -- just as our father, Jesus Christ, had done by admonishing the ways of the Jewish traditions and accepting all of those who wish to follow him.
This was section one of a three-part book review series of The Raggamuffin Gospel.
For those reading this series as we are writing them, we will finish the next three sections in the upcoming weeks.