About a month ago, after doing a little spring cleaning, my daughter and I made a trip to the local used bookstore. I had a box of books and CD’s that were collecting dust and trading them in on something new (well, new to me) seemed like an excellent idea. I love places like thrift stores, consignment shops and used bookstores; if you’re willing to spend some time and dig around a little, you can find amazing stuff for not much cash. This trip was no exception. They went through what I brought in and gave me 18 bucks in store credit. 18 dollars for stuff I didn’t need or want anymore; that’s like free money! With our credit slip in our hot little hands, Olivia and I dove into the stacks to search for our latest treasures. She found a couple of CD’s and a sci-fi novel and I stumbled onto The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. My first exposure to Manning was this YouTube clip:
I showed this to a friend and, not being a fan of Manning, he seemed a bit lukewarm about it. When I asked him why, he felt Manning put too much emphasis on our unworthiness of grace. It’s true, Manning’s words on the subject seem to approach Calvin’s thoughts on total depravity. For that reason, it’s odd that I’m drawn to his message; I’ve written about this before and I’m not a fan. But, Manning doesn’t present us as vile, corrupt sinners cowering before an angry God. In Manning’s world, we’re broken, inadequate people beaten down by the vagaries of life and our own bad decisions who are loved beyond comprehension by our Father. I like Manning’s message because it reminds me what grace truly is:
“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.”