Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ragamuffin Love

You may recall that I began reading The Ragamuffin Gospel about 2 weeks ago. I finished it while I was at camp. The book has given me much to think about.

The entire concept of the book is the focus on God's overwhelming, radical love. As strange as it sounds, that is often a foreign concept to us. We trivialize God's love, ignore it, downsize it, marginalize it, stick it in a box and make constricting rules for it. But the fact remains that God's love is far more than we can really fathom. Whatever rules we make for it, it shatters them. And as much as we say to ourselves, "We can't earn God's love, it is freely given" we still seem to live as though God will take His love away if we don't meet some set of criteria.

Think about it for just a second. In the beginning, it was a scandalous concept enough that Jesus died not only for the Jew, but also for the Gentile. Gentiles were not God's people. They were unclean and unworthy simply because of who they were! And yet God broke through that and said, "My love is larger than you can ever realize." God's love isn't just bold, it's revolutionary.

Do we find ourselves in the same place today? We only hear fringes of the church claim that God doesn't love certain sets of people. But how do we live? Do we talk about people like God has abandoned them, like they don't deserve God's love? Do we talk big about God's love and then live like God doesn't love those people, and we hold onto his love by a thread? When we talk about criminals, homosexuals, abortionists, people who have had abortions, Democrats, Republicans, racists . . . do we talk about them in a way which belies the fact that the God of this universe loves them with a love so awesome? Do we love them? Do we tell them about this mind-blowing, rule-breaking love, or do we bloody them with tirades about rules and morals? Do we force them to conform to our standard of acceptability in order to make them "acceptible" to God?

Manning is right. Something is fundamentally wrong. I think, in too many ways, we've forgotten about the radicalness of Christ's love and replaced it with a salvation of works. All God asks is that we say "Yes" to His love. He doesn't expect us to clean ourselves up before groveling at his feet, or to pull ourselves up by the boot-straps in order to be worthy or His love and attention. He just wants us to accept His love . . . and He works with us from there.

Manning ran into the unfortunate trouble of being accused of downplaying repentence and works. But let's be completely honest with ourselves here. Works? Those don't happen unless the love of God has worked its way into our hearts and transformed us. Works done apart from God are less than worthless. Repentence? It doesn't even occur to us to repent until the love of God has touched us, revealed to us our state before Him, and tinged our hearts with sorrow for the crime with have committed against such a great affection.

The book is powerful. I'm readily convinced it is something I ought to re-read every so often, as a reminder of the powerful, radical, awesome grace and love of God.

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