Following up on my last post which lays out what this Ragamuffin Journal is all about, I’ll be pulling some ideas from Chapter 1 of Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. Chapter 1, serving as an introduction, is appropriately titled “Something Is Radically Wrong.” It instantly grabbed my attention of by addressing the need I had to pick up a book like this.
Something really is radically wrong. Many times, the ways we have gone about seeking a life with God and our basic understandings of God are simply not adequate. Somehow I know that the grace and the love of God through Jesus Christ runs deeper, wider, and more powerfully than I’ve allowed myself to experience. The Church (and I as a pastor in it) haven’t done a very good job communicating and demonstrating what this love and grace of God looks like. Nor have we fully appreciated how very substance of the gospel is not intended for super-religious know-it-all’s but rather for the down-and-out, broken, doubting ragamuffins whom good religious people tend to impetuously overlook.
In short, we’ve got it all wrong on grace.
I wish I could share the entire opening chapter with you, but here is my favorite part from pg. 32-3 of The Ragamuffin Gospel:
Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by the guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with the grueling alternatives; the business-man besieged by debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually-abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick,’ whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school; the deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust and raped the earth.
“But how?” we ask. Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
There they are. There we are– the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.
Does that sound scandalous to you? If so, then good! By worldly standards, which good religious people tend to idolatrously co-opt , grace is scandalous because of God’s radical acceptance– unmerited, unearned, and not at all tainted by the most grievous of our sins. When we open ourselves to the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ for all us ragamuffins, nothing can stand in the way of his love that saves us.
So what about holiness and righteousness? As we’ll discover in later chapters, holiness grows out of the fierce acceptance of God’s grace, and not the other way around! That is an enormous distinction Christians miss time and time again, as evidenced in our behavior and attitudes which suggest that God loves the good and that church is for good people. If that’s ever the case, then this “false church” would have one less pastor!
The real Church is for those who fail, the rejected, for those who doubt and question, who make the same destructive mistakes time and time again, for those who wouldn’t otherwise make it in a graceless, success-driven world, as well as those lifelong saints saved by grace– ragamuffins all. Now that’s the Church I’ll always be proud to pastor…