I'm in the midst of another good book that I'd like to share with you.
It is so easy to think of myself as this important person that does important things. As we go to White Swan, I frequently have to check myself. We tend to get many kind people saying very nice things about us and what we are doing. We are very thankful for this. But it doesn't help me to be humble. It doesn't help me to give glory to God for what He is doing in and through me. It is so easy for me to turn something into a me thing instead of a God thing.
I've been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning and it has some really good things to say. Some of it I've questioned theologically, but there are some really helpful insights that Manning has regarding the grace of God that covers all our sin.
"According to Hosea, God is willing to maintain a relationship even when His spouse [Israel or the Church or me] has become a coarse and vulgar prostitute. This same conviction is carried into the New Testament. The adulterous woman is brought before Jesus. The god of religious leaders, who never got over Hosea's contribution, is expected to judge her. She has been unfaithful and the divine posture embodied in leadership would stone her. The God of the Pharisees is interested in the contract, in justice first and foremost. Let us kill the woman for the contract. The person is expendable.
"But in the man, Jesus, we see the human face of God, one in keeping with Old Testament revelation. He is interested in the woman. His love moves beyond justice and proves more salvific than spelling out the ground rules all over again.
"Unjust? To our way of thinking, yes. Thank God! I am wonderfully content with a God who doesn't deal with me as my sins deserve. On the last day when Jesus calls me by name, 'Come, Brennan, blessed of my Father,' it will not be because Abba is just, but because His name is mercy." Pgs 103-104
I would add that God's justice is satisfied because Christ took the punishment for our sins. So He is both just and the justifier. He is both just and merciful.
"For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, 'Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,' He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love. He knew that physical pain, the loss of loved ones, failure, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and betrayal would sap our spirits; that the day would come when faith would no longer offer any drive, reassurance, or comfort; that prayer would lack any sense of reality or progress; that we would echo the cry of Teresa of Avila; 'Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!'" Pg 115
Isn't this just like God? He always flips everything on its head. Or more correctly, we've flipped everything over and He puts it right again. We are so focused on duty, on doing right. Jesus is focused on relationship, "Come to me . . ."
"Will we ever understand the gospel of grace, the furious love of God, the world of grace in which we live? Jesus Christ is the scandal of God. When the Baptizer is imprisoned by Herod, he sends a couple of his followers to ask Jesus, 'Are you the One who is to come into the world or should we wait for another?' Jesus says, 'Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the poor have the gospel preached to them, the messianic era has erupted into history, and the love of my Father is revealed. Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.'
We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground." Pg 104
We make Jesus into our own image. A peaceful, conservative, baby Jesus. (We even think we know what Jesus looks like, thanks to borderline, or maybe not borderline, but actually blasphemous books like Heaven is for Real.) But He turned to the peaceful and conservative of the day and called them a "brood of vipers." If Jesus doesn't scandalize, then we aren't seeing the real Jesus.