I never met Brennan Manning and I never heard him preach. Yet I would count myself as one of the millions who have been touched by his life.
Why? I’ve read The Ragamuffin Gospel, of course. Chances are, you have too.
I’ve also read some of his other books but for me Ragamuffin Gospel takes the cake. I consider it one of the grace standards. (You can read my review of it here.)
This week many who knew Brennan better than I did are writing obits better than I could. (I recommend this one by Ben Simpson.) I am not going pretend I knew him except through his stories. But, oh my, his stories were something else. They were like nothing I ever heard in church.
I was raised in a world where Christians were supposed to be shiny and victorious and overcoming-with-Jesus, but Manning was a bona fide ragamuffin – a raggedy believer barely keeping it together. As an alcoholic he had a raw and ravenous need for grace. As a Catholic priest who had a hard time keeping the rules, he met many who, like him, had been chewed up by life.
Manning tells the stories of real people and their great need for grace. Like the parables of Jesus, his stories are spin-free. “Here’s life, it’s dirty; now here’s grace, it’s amazing.” That sort of thing.
[If you have never read one of Manning’s stories, one of my favorites is “The Bishop and the Mystic.”]
Anyway, I suspect you want to go dust off your copy of Ragamuffin Gospel now (or download one from Kindle), so let me leave you with ten quickly-picked quotes that, insofar as quickly-picked quotes can, convey something of the man and his message:
1. How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car. ~Ragamuffin Gospel
2. Only reckless confidence in a Source greater than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others. ~Abba’s Child
3. When a man or woman is truly honest, it is virtually impossible to insult them personally.
4. We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that he should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at his love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground. ~Ragamuffin Gospel
5. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. ~Abba’s Child
6. The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.~popularized by the 1995 dc Talk track “What if I stumble?”
7. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. ~Abba’s Child
8. The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. “They won’t let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.” “What are you complaining about?” said God. “They won’t let me in either.” ~Ragamuffin Gospel
9. 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 (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that 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 guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with 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.
“But how?” we ask.
Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and have 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.” ~Ragamuffin Gospel
10. I have been seized by the power of a great affection. ~Ragamuffin Gospel