The version I have is the 25th anniversary edition, so it doesn't have the foreword by Michael W. Smith (nooo!) but it still has the wonderful words of Manning.
And just what are those words?
The Ragamuffin Gospel is basically a book that points out how confused Christians are these days about God's grace. Some Christians feel they are doing everything right and are the perfect examples of what God wants Christians to be. And because of this, they ignore their own sins but judge others for theirs. What is wrong with this scenario is that you can't DO anything to earn God's grace. That's not how it works, and if these Christians were "real" Christians, they would know this by reading it in the Bible.
Other Christians feel that they are just too far out of God's reach. They've sinned. They don't do enough. God couldn't possibly want to extend grace to these people. What's wrong with this scenario is that Jesus specifically came to Earth for these types of Christians. It doesn't matter how much you've sinned or what your sins were. Jesus came to forgive you, to extend grace to you, to enter into a personal relationship with you.
There is a quote from minister Lloyd Ogilvie in this book that I think sums up what our attitude toward God's grace should really be: "Our whole understanding of him [God] is based in a quid pro quo of bartered love. He will love us if we are good, moral, and diligent. But we have turned the tables; we try to live so that he will love us, rather than living because he has already loved us." (p.169)
Toward the end of the book, Manning asks some good questions:
Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace? Are you moody and melancholy because you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don't have to change, grow, or be good to be loved? (p. 188)If you find yourself struggling with the answers to these questions, if you think of yourself as bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out, then you are a ragamuffin. And this book is for you.
I received a free copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel from Blogging for Books for this review.