Ragamuffin Gospel: #4 – Tilted Halos

Chapter 4

Saved Sinners

The subtitle for this chapter should be Saved Sinners as Manning uses this term several times directly and indirectly. The emphasis makes sense: we are all sinners, the distinction is only between those who have accepted Christ and those who have not.

One of my goals in life is to be an encourager, one who lifts others up when they’re down. I can only do this if I’m willing to accept that I am nothing without the saving grace of Jesus Christ. My aim is to listen well and be sincere–nothing contrive, no check marks on a list or notches in my belt, simply authentic.

In conversation, the disciple who is truly poor in spirit always leaves the other person feeling, My life has been enriched by talking with you.p.81

As we come to trust Jesus completely, we stop judging others because we understand our own position in this world–we are all saved sinners! This allows us to relate with everyone. The key is not to put ourselves first, but to always put Christ first, trusting that He will span the gap between us. Those who are truly humble “do not pretend to be anything but what they are: sinners saved by grace.”

I really appreciate Manning’s confession about his six weeklong Lenten “renewals” where he was called out by someone who acted as his “mirror.” Whether or not we have valid excuses for our actions, we need to remember that “to whom much is given, much is required”Luke 12:48.

  1. The foremost characteristic of living by grace is trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
  2. Second characteristic is Poverty of Spirit: Blessed are the poor in spirit.
  3. The third characteristic is honesty.

The discussion of honesty reminds me of a Billy Joel song. Though distinctly not a Christian song, sometimes we can (and should) learn from the world (see Luke 16:1-15). From the song, “honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue.” We all think we need to wear masks, to put on our church face, to be something someone expects. The play Manning mentioned in the beginning of the book, The Great God Brown, was all about masks that allowed the actors to pretend to be someone else, to gain an advantage that ultimately was all vanity.

Yet honesty doesn’t mean being a tyrant! We can be honest and caring at the same time. The key is to be more concerned about our brother or sister than we are about ourselves.

The question the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?

Honesty is so important. We raised our girls with this truth: lies will always come back and bite you. I think this is quite true, but what we like to do is mask something as truth that is in fact a lie. We’re bombarded with political correctness, social expectations and other artificial pressures that all attempt to teach us that truth isn’t always the right thing. We know this isn’t right, but it’s so easy to just accept that we’re often afraid to speak the truth, even in love, because of the potential side effects.

Perhaps the term transparency is better at encapsulating honesty. I can be honest, but not say what I’m thinking. When I’m transparent, I don’t hide behind excuses like, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” I’m not suggesting we be insensitive because transparency works both ways! In any case, if we assume we’re on #3 because we have fully accepted #1 and #2 above, this should be a natural next step. On the contrary, if I’m wrapped up in my own little world, overly concerned about me, then I can’t possibly be honest with someone, let alone transparent.

All in all, our shiny little halos that we tend to polish as if we’re people that are just a little bit better than others need to disappear. We are given the gift of grace to share with others. Only then will we see what grace is all about!

From the Chapter

  • The tilted halo of the saved sinner is worn loosely and with easy grace. We have discovered that the cross accomplished far more than revealing the love of God.
  • The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise.
  • Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace.
  • Do you really believe that:
    • the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious
    • He cares about you?
    • He is always, unfailingly present to you as companion and support?
    • God is love?
  • You are wrong if
    • you have learned to fear this loving and gracious Father
    • you have learned to think of the Father as the judge, the spy, the disciplinarian, the punisher
    • you think Abba is our enemy
    • you believe Abba is intent on trying, tempting or testing us
    • you think Abba prefers and promotes suffering and pain
  • Trust defines the meaning of living by grace rather than works.
  • The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become–the more we realize that everything in life is a gift.
  • Honesty is such a precious commodity that it is seldom found in the world or the church.

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