The Ragamuffin Gospel
by Brennan Manning
Reviewed by Terry Akers
Brennan Manning begins his remarkable book on celebrating God’s unconditional love for his creation revealed to us in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and the church’s proclamation of the gospel of grace with the following words:
The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind. This book is not for the super-spiritual. It is not for muscular Christians who have made John Wayne and not Jesus their hero. It is not for academicians who would imprison Jesus in the ivory tower of exegesis. It is not for noisy, feel-good folks who manipulate Christianity into a naked appeal to emotion. It is not for hooded mystics who want magic in their religion. It is not for Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation. It is not for the fearless and tearless. It is not for red-hot zealots who boast with the rich young ruler of the gospels: "All these commandments I have kept from my youth." It is not for the complacent, hoisting over their shoulder a tote-bag of honors, diplomas and good works actually believing they have it made. It is not for legalists who would rather surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus….
The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out. It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other. It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker. It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents. It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay. It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God. It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.
Manning identifies a serious problem that many Christians struggle with — accepting grace in theory while denying it in their daily lives. He shows how many have come to view God as “an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper, tallying our failures and successes on a score sheet.” The remedy for this enslaving misconception is also provided — simple honesty. God’s grace is freely accessible to us by merely saying yes to his yes for us in Jesus Christ.
When we really believe that the incarnation and atonement took care of everything for us that stood against us, the burdens are lifted, and we are free to worship God in an internal relationship and enjoy his loving grace in full assurance and peace.
Manning relates through The Ragamuffin Gospel how difficult it is for humans to accept grace. It is not easy to wrap our minds around the fact that God loves us unconditionally. This book has been instrumental in liberating the minds of thousands from the unnecessary baggage imposed on them by the tyranny of legalism and performance-based thinking.
It is highly recommended for its clear presentation of Jesus’ simple message of grace, offering genuine encouragement, hope and healing to all ragamuffins and any others who struggle with their real or imagined inadequacies.
Copyright © 2004