(Yes, I do use MLA-style citations in this post. I can’t help it. I’m an English major!)
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning looks closely at God’s grace for all people – for alcoholics, prostitutes, children, sick people, hard-working people, or any other kind of “ragamuffin” in need of some help (which covers all of us, really). The title sounds funny at first, but the “ragamuffin gospel” is just Manning’s term for the gospel of grace that Jesus preached. The ragamuffin gospel means that “whatever our failings may be, we need not lower our eyes in the presence of Jesus” (Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel 28).
One of the main messages I’m taking away from this worthwhile read is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Disciples of Christ get to be…
- committed despite criticisms: “To really be a disciple of Jesus, one must be as committed to the message of the kingdom as He was, and to preach it whether or not the audience finds it relevant” (170).
- faithful despite failings: “What makes authentic disciples is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter and verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection and ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses and relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots, and wandered into a far country. Yet they kept coming back to Jesus” (182, emphasis mine).
Oftentimes criticism and failure make me feel that I’ve somehow deeply disappointed God. The ragamuffin gospel, however, says that criticism and failure are part of human life, and God understands that because He made human life, His Son Jesus experienced life, and the Holy Spirit resides in our lives. Because of this deep understanding, God accepts us and frees us to grow from our criticisms and failures rather than remain stuck in them. Again and again, I need to be reminded that discipleship does not mean increasingly perfect behavior but increasingly “coming back to Jesus” (182).
And now for a beautiful song about the very grace I’ve been talking about:
“‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words, tangled in lies
But You are a savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful”