I recently read Brennan Manning’s classic work on God’s profound love and grace, The Ragamuffin Gospel. I’d known of the book for years, but it took dozens of recommendations before I bought and read it. Part of me wished I had done so earlier and part of me is grateful I encountered this beautiful book when I did.
It is rare for me to read a book that makes me love Jesus and feel loved by Jesus more. This one did, page after page, relentlessly. It is magnificent in its simplicity and depth and honesty and gratefulness and worship. If you have not, please read it.
Here is a selection of the best quotes from the Ragamuffin Gospel.
1) [Ragamuffin Gospel] is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.
2) The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper.
3) He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners.
4) The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a far larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.
5) The men and women who are truly filled with the light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their own imperfect existence.
6) Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
7) My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn or deserve it.
8) Whatever our failings may be, we need not lower our eyes in the presence of Jesus.
9) Something is radically wrong when the local church rejects someone accepted by Jesus.
10) Creation discloses a power that baffles our minds and beggars our speech.
11) Grace is the active expression of His love.
12) The child of the Father rejects the pastel-colored patsy God who promises never to rain on our parade.
13) Jesus learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for his milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all.
14) The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.
15) The Word we study has to be the Word we pray.
16) Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the grace of God.
17) One of the mysteries of the gospel tradition is this strange attraction of Jesus for the unattractive, this strange desire for the undesirable, this strange love for the unlovely.
18) Just as a smart man knows he is stupid, so the awake Christian knows he/she is a ragamauffin.
19) Repentance is not what we do in order to be forgiven; it is what we do because have been forgiven.
20) The Father is not justice and the Son love. The Father is justice and love; the Son is love and justice.
21) The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become – the more we realize that everything in life is a gift.
23) We grow complacent and lead practical lives. We miss the experience of awe, reverence, and wonder. Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter.
24) If God is not in the whirlwind he may be in a Woody Allen Film or a Bruce Springsteen concert. Most people understand imagery and symbol better than doctrine and dogma. Images touch hearts and awaken imaginations.
25) It is only the reality of death that is able to quicken people out of the sluggishness of everyday life and into an active search for what life is really about.
26) Each moment of our existence we are either growing into more or retreating into less. We are either living a little more or dying a little bit, ad Norman Mailer put it.
27) We cannot apply human logic and justice to the living God. Human logic is based on human experience and human nature. Yahweh does not conform to this model. If Israel is unfaithful, God remains faithful against all logic and all limits of justice because He is.
28) Jesus has journeyed to the far reaches of loneliness.
29) We cannot will ourselves to accept grace. There are no magic words, preset formulas, or esoteric rites of passage. Only Jesus Christ sets us free from indecision. The Scriptures offer no other basis for conversion than the personal magnetism of the Master.
30) Just as the sunrise of faith requires the sunset of our former unbelief, so the dawn of trust requires letting go of our craving spiritual consolations and tangible reassurances. Trust at the mercy of the response it receives is a bogus trust.
31) When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past, we are disdaining God’s gift of grace.
32) Christianity happens when men and women accept with unwavering trust that their sins have not only been forgiven but forgotten, washed away in the blood of the Lamb.
33) The ministry of evangelization is an extraordinary opportunity of showing gratitude to Jesus by passing on His gospel of grace to others.
34) Impostors in the spirit always prefer appearances to reality.
35) The alternative to confronting the truth is always some form of self-destruction.
36) The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behavior.
37) Many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo repentance and pseudo bliss.
38) We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian. – Robert Hotchkins
39) As the chameleon changes colors with the seasons, so the Christian who wants to be well thought of by everyone attunes and adapts to each new personality and situation.
40) For most of us it takes a long time for the Spirit of freedom to cleanse us of the subtle urges to be admired for our studied goodness. It requires a strong sense of our redeemed selves to pass up the opportunity to appear graceful and good to other persons.
41) Living by grace inspires a growing consciousness that I am what I am in the sight of Jesus and nothing more.
42) A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do a bad prayer.
43) Compassion for others is not a simple virtue because it avoids snap judgements of right or wrong, good or bad, hero or villain: It seeks truth in all its complexity. Genuine compassion means that in empathizing with the failed plans and uncertain loves of the other person, we send out the vibration, “Yes, ragamuffin, I understand. I’ve been there too.”
44) Usually we see other people not as they are, but as we are.
45) When God’s love is taken for granted, we paint Him into a corner and rob Him of the opportunity to love us in a NEW AND SURPRISING way, and faith begins to shrivel and shrink.
46) To be Christian, faith has to be new – that is, alive and growing. It cannot be static, finished, settled. When Scripture, prayer, worship, ministry become routine, they are dead. When I have decided that I can now cope with the awful love of God I have headed to the shallows to avoid the deeps. I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a teacup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.
47) To really be 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.
48) The sinner is accepted before he pleads for mercy. It is already granted. He need only to receive it. Total amnesty. Gratuitous pardon.
49) After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace?
50) The love of God is folly.
Whether or not you agree with Brennan Manning’s theology as a whole, Ragamuffin Gospel is a wonderful, encouraging, grace-saturated book. Buy it. Read it. Be amazed at the incredible, staggering love of God.