Today's culture prides itself on security, wealth, circumstance, social status, and personal achievement. Tragically, the Church has bought into these spurious values. Too many believers are caught in the web of competing with one another and pursuing these man-made goals, partitioned from those who need to hear the Gospel. Our religious rules and regulations strangle life out of the message God wishes to send. Only when we embrace God's grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that cherishes and nurtures the neediest of His flock~the ragamuffins.
Many Christians today give lip service to the gospel of grace, but still live their lives as if personal discipline and self-denial will mold them into the person God desires. This is a lie straight from the pit of hell. Although discipline is a vital part of the Christian experience, a misguided focus places the emphasis on us and what we are or are not doing and makes the gospel of grace irrelevant.
Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace. When we really, truly start to understand what grace means what Jesus did on the cross our lives will be transformed. Jesus came for sinners, outcasts, tax collectors, tramps, those with failed dreams and failed lives, the ragamuffins of our world.
Grace is loving the unlovely, not loving the lovely. Grace is forgiving the unforgivable, not forgiving those who are trying their best, but occasionally slip. When we grasp this concept, this kind of grace, then the Christian experience becomes triumphant. The Christian church has somehow bought into the notion that the pious, the pure in heart, the proper, and those not stained by life's improprieties are the only ones to be allowed into the kingdom of God.
Something is radically wrong when the church rejects a person who has been accepted by Jesus. Without flinching, too many Christians deny the divorcee communion, refuse to baptize the child of a prostitute, and mercilessly judge the homosexual. Jesus came to the ungodly, not the godly. He knew that the sick people needed a physician, not the healthy ones. His greatest wrath was saved up for the superspiritual, the pious and religious - those who should have known grace and should have lived it, but condemned and judged instead. All we need do is look at the Bible for the triumphant. There they are, the spoiled, the soiled, the ones who so wanted to be faithful, but could not. Defeated by trials, weary, and wearing the bloody garments of a failed life, they somehow clung to the faith. This is the gospel of grace.
Excerpt from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, copyright 2000 by Brennan Manning. Summarized by Christian Book Summaries with permission of the publisher.