“The poor man and woman of the gospel have made peace with their flawed existence. They are aware of their lack of wholeness, their brokenness, the simple fact that they don’t have it all together. While they do not excuse their sin, they are humbly aware that sin is precisely what has caused them to throw themselves at the mercy of the Father. They do not pretend to be anything but what they are: sinners saved by grace.”
This semester, my small group has been reading through Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it. Quite honestly, it’s been challenging the heck out of me. Especially with quotes like the one above.
I’ve been reflecting on that specific passage a lot lately in how it relates to the way I live out the Gospel. It’s been making me question whether I’m walking through life in an assurance of the full embrace of Christ or a carefully crafted facade of good deeds and religious behavior. Does my life really reflect a deep awareness of my own brokenness? And does that awareness lead me to a true and abiding experience of the grace and mercy of Jesus?
I think Scripture presents this as an issue we will all deal with until we step into Eternity (Mark 1:15), but I believe they are fair questions to ask. I recently heard a pastor in Dallas speak about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4 and he compared her reaction to the living Christ to the way we should be living out our faith. After offering this woman the Living Water, exposing her sinful adulterous relationships, and cornering her in an attempted religious debate, Jesus still pursues her. And the woman recognizes this. So much so that she goes running into the town to speak of Him.
The people in this town would have known her unseemly behavior. They would have known that she was not the most reputable person to be around. She would have known this as well. But still she goes running up to person after person, character completely exposed, crying out, “Come see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done and still loves me! Come see a man who looked me in the face, exposed my deepest of secrets, and saw past them! Come see a man who loves me despite me! Come see a man…” The text goes onto say that many of the people who heard her say these things came to know Christ because of her testimony (vs. 39). I can’t help but think that this is because even with her skeletons exposed she was caught up in something greater than their effects.
Sometimes, I think we make the Gospel too clean. Because we shouldn’t ever be sad once we know Jesus. Or if we’re experiencing a dry season spiritually, it’s probably because we just aren’t praying enough or we haven’t been reading enough Scripture. If we are having doubts, we’re obviously not pursuing God correctly and we should probably go to church more, join another small group, and listen to more worship music. Because those things are indicative of holiness, right?
Or is it that we think deep down that we are really okay? Is it that, to some extent, we have forgotten and even hidden our depravity under the assumption that we are bringing more glory to God by doing so? I find this subtle line of thinking slipping in and out of my walk with the Lord often. The woman at the well operated on a very clear understanding that she was jacked up and Christ was her only hope. And people responded to that. Paul talks repeatedly throughout the New Testament about how he bound, tortured, and murdered not just men, but also women for their faith before he came to know the Lord. And people responded to that.
Do we really believe we are sinners saved by grace? And do we share the Gospel in a way that reflects that? Do we speak of our being saved so that we actually share what we were saved from? Are we drawing people to ourselves? Or are we truly pleading with them to come see a man who told us everything we ever did and still loves us?
Just some things I’ve been thinking about. I would love to hear you thoughts.