Do you know which well-known Christian wrote these words:
• “If Jesus appeared at your dining table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not…..you would feel his acceptance and forgiveness…..unreservedly accepted, approved, and infinitely loved”.
• “The living presence of Jesus awakened joy and set people free”.
• “He freed them from self-hatred, and gave them what they needed more than anything else – encouragement for their lives”.
• “His mission and message: peace and reconciliation for all, without exception, even for the moral failures”.
• “A person who cherished life, and especially other people, as loving gifts from the Father’s hand”.
• “We should have a welcoming disposition toward the fellow travelers who knock on our door. Some are dirtballs, grungy, disheveled, and bedraggled”.
I never understood enough the feeling of acceptance and love shown by Jesus toward the folks he encountered when he walked the earth (prostitutes and publicans and sinners). And toward us who have searched for and approached him (moral failures in one way or another). When one night Rene Westman walked with Jesus along the deck of a ship bound for Australia, she was instantly converted, and she told me that what impacted her most was the love that shone out of his eyes.
I offer two small examples of this approach to the gospel of Jesus:
• A friend of mine who has been a pillar of commitment to an established church most of his life has joined an independent motorcycle group who ministers to the homeless on Saturday evenings. The bikers visit and chat with the homeless, provide food or sleeping bags, and offer to pray for them…..bringing hope just the way that Jesus did and would.
• A lady who runs a challenging business sometimes walks the hallways and hands out twenty dollar bills to employees who have done an especially good job. While there are business reasons why this is good practice, I know for her it’s more than that…..it is bringing personal encouragement, like Jesus would, to people who have been or are experiencing hard times.
The writer’s name is Brennan Manning and the quotes are from his book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”. He was a Catholic priest. In the largest Methodist church in Houston, I heard Manning preach once, in a quiet voice that exuded power. What I came away with was how much God loves us just as we are (yes, even with moral failures), and accepts us even when it can be hard to accept ourselves. The gifts of forgiveness and relationship are free by God’s grace. Quoting again from the book:
“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne, dressed in white robes, and holding palms in their hands, I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could when faced with grueling alternatives. The businessman besieged with debts who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions. The deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust, and raped the earth.
‘But how?’ we ask.
And the answer comes ‘They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’.
So there they are. And there we are – we who wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace”.
Brennan Manning died on 12 April 2013.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
“And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with those known to be especially wicked sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, Why does He eat and drink with tax collectors and notorious sinners? And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick; I came not to call the righteous ones to repentance, but sinners – the erring ones and all those not free from sin” (Mark chapter 2, Amplified Bible).
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously, and began to pray….. God I thank you that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, swindlers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven; but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be gracious and merciful to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am! I tell you, this man went down to his home justified – forgiven and in right standing with God – rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke chapter 18, Amplified Bible).
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