Ragamuffin Gospel: The Scandal of Grace: Fifteen Years Later

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Apparently, Brennan Manning was scolded harshly by some in the Christian community for this book. Perhaps he speaks as a prophet for our current Christian culture, calling out those who would reduce Christianity to a Sunday morning activity–which happens to include most of us. I suggest “us” in this sense because, like it or not, those who are not assimilated into our culture view Christians as all one people lumped together. They don’t know the difference between a nun and evangelical. We (collectively) have built institutions–not Jesus. We are the ones that make rock stars out of gifted musicians, celebrities out of gifted preachers, untouchables out of those who publish books.

Manning implores us to destroy these titles and simply share the gospel of grace through living lives of loving our neighbors.

  • Ragamuffins don’t sit down to be served; they kneel down to serve.
  • Ragamuffins give thanks for the smallest gift
  • They don’t complain about the feeble preaching of their local church, but are grateful for the smallest crumb that tumbles from the preacher’s mouth
  • No long prayers or big words (just small words that force you to look up the definitions!1)
  • There is no pretense about self-sufficiency
  • Raw honest becomes part of the character of a ragamuffin
  • Radical dependence and trusting surrender are the heartbeat of a ragamuffin
  • They have found the hidden treasure in the field–nothing compares to the kingdom of God

Our churches are not country clubs, decked out to impress our communities. We must not endorse nominal Christianity, but at the same time we need to figure out how to graciously move to defrost the frozen chosen. Belief in Christ is not the end of the story–it’s the beginning of a new life.

Perhaps the supreme achievement of the Holy Spirit in the life of ragamuffins is the miraculous movement from self-rejection to self-acceptance. It is not based on therapy or the power of positive thinking; it is anchored in their personal experience of the acceptance of Jesus Christ.

Though I prefer to meet someone who is lost in the self-help section of a bookstore over one who is addicted to some mind altering drug or drink, all are in need of the accepting grace of Jesus Christ. It would not be authentic for me to wander into bars to meet those who are seeking to soothe themselves with alcohol, but it would not be a stretch to put a band together and play in locations that would force me to get to know those who don’t even know they’re lost. Such behavior isn’t taught in Sunday School, let alone from the pulpit, but I wonder, is that what ragamuffins do?

Perhaps that’s a bit provocative and the bi-vocational pastor is the answer. We need to get creative and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do whatever works to remove barriers that prevent those who are living without the awesome love of God that we all know is freely available. No more playing it safe.

Reading this chapter is like reading a synopsis of the book, like Manning was agitated just enough to recap the main points of the book–he couldn’t help himself! The preacher preaches. That’s his gift. This sermon is in writing for us to hear over and over again, to underline and highlight the thoughts that speak to us individually.

I can’t help but believe that if our churches were filled with ragamuffins, we would be so attractive to the outside world that we could not contain the people–and they would not mind a bit.

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Notes:

1 systole and diastole. Diastole is the part of the cardiac cycle when the heart refills with blood following systole (contraction). Ventricular diastole is the period during which the ventricles are filling and relaxing, while atrial diastole is the period during which the atria are relaxing.systole-diastole

2 mysterium tremendum: overwhelming mystery.

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