Perhaps the greatest theological truth ever written is this: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." It is a love we cannot earn and do not deserve; it is a love we simply have to accept. Yet I am not so sure we really believe that. I am not certain we understand the concept of grace. We are too busy trying to EARN God's love; we are too involved in being against things and decalring our point of view to be correct. We are missing the point. We are all ragamuffins who fall short of living without sin, yet Jesus loves us anyway. Today I want to share with you some excerpts from the first chapter of Brennan Manning's classic book The Ragamuffin Gospel (1990, Multnomah Press). I hope these words will offer hope and clarity to you as you worship God on this Sabbath.
Something is radically wrong.
The Christian community often resembles a Wall Street exchange of works where in the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored. Love is stifled, freedom shackled, and self-righteousness believed. The institutional church has become a wounder of the healers rather than a healer of the wounded... Put bluntly the American Church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice.
Our culture has made the word grace impossible to understand. We resonate with slogans such as:
"There's no free lunch."
"You get what you deserve."
"You want love? Earn it."
"You want mercy? Show you deserve it."
"Do unto others before they do it unto you."
Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if it is only personal discipline and self-denial that will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing.
Our approach to the Christian life is just as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber's license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, "I think I can fix this."
We believe that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps- indeed, we can do it ourselves. Sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency. Our security is shattered and our bootstraps are cut.
It is time for us to realize that if we can earn God's love by our beliefs and actions, then Jesus was not necessary. His coming to earth was a fool's errand if we can bridge the gap that sin creates between ourselves and God by our own efforts. It is time our theology got back to the basics. Sing the truth to yourself today and everyday, and feel the power of God's love. "YES- Jesus loves me!"
Because of Jesus,