There was a popular book titled “Ragamuffin Gospel” years ago. In part, the message of that book influenced the name of this blog. The author is Brennan Manning, who passed away in 2013.
I recently read a blog post that questioned the credibility and legitimacy of Brennan Manning’s “leadership role” because he had been a chronic alcoholic and was divorced. The author added that such moral failure disqualified Manning as a spiritual leader. Their judgment on Manning was stated this way:
“This is not a man who deserved a place as a revered Christian leader or mentor. This is a man who should never have had a platform in the first place.”
I am a nobody. But I know this: the message of Brennan Manning opened the eyes of many people to the inexplicable, beautiful and amazing love of God. The old saying is: if you call yourself a leader and no one is following you… then you’re just taking a walk. However, if millions of people fell in love with God because of He reached them through Mr. Manning’s work then he must have been some kind of a leader.
People who have walked with God for a long time and not had their lives and families devastated by chronic sin are remarkable and blessed people. God can use them in tremendous ways because of their obedience and moral living. I have been the grateful recipient of their grace and love and tenderness. I love them. Of those I know personally, I do not question their ability to lead or mentor; the fruit in their lives is evident and inspiring. I benefit just from being around them.
Yet, I do not question the impact of a grave sinner who sincerely repented and is used by God to demonstrate His deep grace and forgiveness, either. God also has favor on those that deserve neither place or platform. I submit my supporting evidence:
Moses murderer, coward
Peter betrayal, assault
Paul conspired to murder
David adulterer, lied, conspired to murder
Mary Magdelene prostitute
There are others, to be sure. In every case listed above, God chose to use the person for His purposes and will.
I want to believe my impact for the Kingdom is not negated by my old life. I don’t anticipate being a leader of anything, much less “revered” (who talks like that?). But I also don’t see any evidence that God is sidelining me because of what I did before I met Him. He calls me out to tell others about the man I used to be, and then what He did in my life. And that’s not because I’m special, moral or “good”.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
The Christmas message is this: we all need a savior… because we can’t save ourselves. That’s a message Brennan understood and wrote about. And when it comes time to answer for my sins, I will employ the only defense I have: