Takeaway: Brennan Manning is the greatest communicator about the radical grace of God that I know.
I often hear complaints that a church or particular stream of Christian faith only preaches grace, with the implication that they are not preaching the whole gospel. Manning clearly believes that the gospel is grace and anything other than grace is something that is either being added to the gospel or it is something that should be taught that is a result of the gospel, not the gospel itself.
I mostly agree. I understand both sides of the argument. I know that there are people that preach grace in a way that is not the gospel. They preach a grace that has no sense of holiness or weight to it. The result of this type of gospel is that their is no sense of what it is that grace has done. It may seem like grace is the center of this type of message, but the power of grace is missing because there is nothing that the grace of God is doing in our lives.
On the other hand, I hear many that preach (and it is usually just preach, it is often not a lived message) that grace must be balanced with truth. And truth is what is really important. Yes, God saves us from our sins, but it is our sin and God’s holiness that is important. I do believe that we are saved from the results of our sin by God’s grace. But the result of some types of truth and grace preaching is that what is communicated is that we have to be holy before we can be saved. This, of course, misses the whole point of Grace.
Manning is sometimes misunderstood, at least I have heard people that understand him differently than I understand Manning. Grace is the center of all of Manning’s teaching because he understands the power of Grace because he has felt the full weight of his sin and brokenness and it is only through grace that Manning believes we can ever approach God.
Manning’s best book is the Ragamuffin Gospel. I have read another half dozen of Manning’s books and while they all have some additional thoughts and are good books to read, none of them have communicated Grace to me like Ragamuffin Gospel. Maybe it is simply because that was the first of Brennan Manning’s books that I read.
The Furious Longing is a good book. It is brief, but it is a good reminder of the call to grace. The focus of this book is how much God longs to be with us. The point where Manning talks about understanding how much God loves us and longs to be with us he says “I came to the inescapable conclusion that the degree of Abba’s love for me is in direct proportion to His love for Jesus. For example, I can love the mailman with twenty percent and my best friend with ninety percent. But with God, there is no division, no more and no less. God loves me as much as He loves Jesus. Wow!”
It is not enough that God loves us. “…love by its nature seeks union. With the grace of recognition comes the awesome and alarming awareness that Jesus, the incarnation of the furious longing of God, wants more than a close relationship with you and me; He seeks nothing less than union.”
As always, Manning spends time talking about the ramifications of knowing grace. If we know grace, then we must be givers of grace.
“The apostle Paul may have understood the mind of Jesus better than anyone who ever lived. He sums up his whole understanding of the message of Jesus in Galatians 5:6 when he writes, “the only thing that matters is the faith that expresses itself in love.” According to Paul’s criterion for greatness in the New Israel of God, the person who is the most Christlike, closest to the heart of Abba, is not the one who spends the most time in prayer. It’s not the one who has the most PhDs. It’s not the one who has the most responsibility entrusted to his care. It’s not the pastor of the biggest megachurch. No, it’s the one who loves the most. That’s not my opinion. Those are the words in Galatians 5 that will judge us.”
It may be that this isn’t the best of Manning’s books, but if I really am serious about being a Christian, then this is a message that needs to sink deep into my soul.
- All is Grace by Brennan Manning (bookwi.se)