At times, we find ourselves returning to fiction classics such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Chronicles of Narnia. The same stands true for me, and I suppose most Christians, when it comes to spiritual-devotional classics. We all have our favourites, no doubt.
This week, I removed Brennan Manning’s classic, The Ragamuffin Gospel, from my shelf and began to re-read a book I haven’t touched in about 10 years. I had seen someone tweet that they were leading a small group study from the book. That’s what drew me to pick it up again.
In the past, I had thought of purchasing a couple of his other works, but have not done so yet. And it has been good to dive back into this classic. Maybe I’ll follow through this time?
To be honest, at one point in my life, it would have been easy to disregard the message of this book. I’ve moved past that ol’ ragamuffin place, on to bigger and better things in the Lord. You know, when I was younger and I knew much more than I do now. Lord, have mercy on me!
I keep encountering surprise after surprise as I continue in this journey with the Lord. One of the things that continues to amaze me is this confirmation over and over: The older I get, the more I realise that I know oh so very little.
Of course, I know who we are in Christ. I’ve preached on it, taught on it, helped others know our identify in Christ. None of that ‘worm theology’ please, the part that sees ourselves as nothing but worms, only deserving of God’s wrath, but that somehow he accepts us in Christ, but only just.
That’s not so healthy.
But that’s not what The Ragamuffin Gospel is about, really. Manning desires that we simply find ourselves drowned in the love, acceptance and grace of God, even us who are ragamuffins.
You see, that’s the danger. At least it’s been for me. We think we finally reach a place where such a message is no longer needed. We’ve reached the next level of spirituality and we’re ready to move on to great heights of spirituality.
I think our Father simply smiles with gracious gentleness at this thought. For we do find ourselves returning to that place. We remember who we really are apart from him. We unearth our need to be little children all over again, not dependant upon what we know and what we’ve accomplished. We remember the call to be like children, having no badges of honour to present before the Lord.
It’s supposed to be that way. Not childishness. Not immaturity. Or maybe, at times, we are childish and immature. But we are simply swept over by the waves of God’s unconditional, faithful, committed grace and love.
I’m glad to recognise my brokenness. I’m happy to recognise that I don’t have it all together. I’ll be tempted at some point to think, once again, that the ragamuffin gospel is not needed. But it will be. I’ll get off track thinking that I’ve got it all together. But it won’t be. We’ll grow. We’ll change. We’ll walk more in line with the ways of Christ – mercy, grace, justice. But the ways of Christ will also entail that of being poor in spirit, mourning, humble, and so much more. It entails our grasping of the ragamuffin gospel.
As I said, the more I walk on this journey of faith, the more I realise I don’t have it all together, don’t have all my theological t’s crossed and i’s dotted, don’t live in light of the grace of Christ. But it remains such an opportunity to be reminded of the ragamuffin gospel. The full-on, unwavering acceptance of ragamuffins like me as a son of our heavenly Father.
Jesus went out of his way to spend time with, eat meals with, share life with those who were ragamuffins. He didn’t have much time for the spiritual elite who had it all figured out, and who found themselves looking down their noses at the ragamuffins all around. He was drawn to the ragamuffins. And, interestingly enough, being a ragamuffin actually helps you love all other ragamuffins.
I’m happy to revisit where I should have never left and should never leave going forward. The ragamuffin gospel.
Drink deeply. For there truly is nothing like the pure joy of knowing our acceptance in Jesus Christ.