Book Pick of the Month for May 2013:
Chosen by Matthew Reed
The Ragamuffin Gospel
by Brennan Manning
In the 23 years since its publication, The Ragamuffin Gospel has become a Christian classic; a herald reminding us of the radical grace of God that pursues us, exactly where we are. Manning's message is simple: our Father is looking for us, even before we return, even before our apologies, even in our dirtiness and even in our unwillingness to acknowledge Him. Manning knows this first hand. His candidness about his alcoholism and the reality of spiritual life, often being halting and unglamorous (the" victorious leap") makes for an engaging read. It feels familiar and real.
Manning is also realistic about the process of accepting grace and persisting in discipleship. He says of Jesus, "He knew that following him was as unsentimental as duty, and demanding as love. He knew that physical pain, the loss of loved ones, failure, loneliness, rejection, abandonment and betrayal would sap our spirits; that prayer would lack any sense of reality or progress; that we would echo the cry of Teresa of Avila, "Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!" Even so, Jesus chooses Ragamuffins like us.
For his resounding emphasis on the grace of God, Manning has been accused of "out-Luthering Luther". His passion for the people of God to understand the abundance of the Father's love is evident. We, as the children of God and siblings of Christ need to be reminded constantly of our belongingness in the family. Neither does he neglect the importance of human response and points out that "Compassionate love is the axis of Christian moral revolution and the only sign ever given by Jesus by which a disciple would be recognized" (John 13:34-35). The love of Christ compels us to love others in the same reckless way we have been loved.
This is the summary of The Ragamuffin Gospel: God loves us with a love so big, that He is constantly trying to get our attention, He gave up His only Son, Jesus, to be in relationship with us. He has offered us grace, grace and grace. He is delighted when we respond to his offer. In short, it is just the Gospel more than anything. We need just to hear it over and over again.
Review by Bethany Fennell