The Fundamental Issue

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

To be really 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…The fundamental issue is not whether the world considers it relevant; it is whether it is true.

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A Ragamuffin Prayer

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses.  We are sorry and ask You to forgive us.  Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.  Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love.  Amen.

Dining with Real Sinners

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

jesus-eats-with-sinners[10] And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. [11] And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [12] But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. [13] Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Matthew 9:10-13

At the cross, Jesus unmasks the sinner not only as a beggar but as a criminal before God.

The sinners to whom Jesus directed His messianic ministry were not those who skipped morning devotions or Sunday church.  His ministry was to those whom society considered real sinners.  They had done nothing to merit salvation.  Yet they opened themselves to the gift that was offered them.  On the other hand, the self-righteous placed their trust in the works of the Law and closed their hearts to the message of grace.

If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your psyche, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness.  For “experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved, that one can and should accept oneself and one’s neighbor.  Salvation is joy in God which expresses itself in joy in and with one’s neighbor” [Walter Kasper].

Matthew the Publican

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

It is interesting that whenever the evangelists Mark, Luke, or John mention the apostles, they call the author of the first Gospel either Levi or Matthew.  But in his own Gospel, he always refers to himself as ‘Matthew the publican,’ never wanting to forget who he was and always wanting to remember how low Jesus stooped to pick him up.

Like a Child

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

[1] At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [2] And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them [3] and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

– Matthew 18:1-4

The child is unself-conscious, incapable of pretense.  I am reminded of the night little John Dyer, three years old, knocked on our door flanked by his parents.  I looked down and said, “Hi, John.  I am delighted to see you.”  He looked neither to the right nor left.  His face was set like flint.  He narrowed his eyes with the apocalyptic glint of an aimed gun.  “Where’s the cookies?” he demanded.

chf-cartoon-kidsThe Kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves.  They are not plotting how they can call attention to themselves, worrying about how their actions will be interpreted or wondering if they will get gold stars for their behavior.

Children are our model because they have no claim on heaven.  If they are close to God, it is because they are incompetent, not because they are innocent.  If they receive anything, it can only be as a gift.

For the disciple of Jesus “becoming like a little child” means the willingness to accept oneself as being of little account and to be regarded as unimportant.