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Today’s post is adapted from the December 4th, 2012 post.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)
I recently read Brennan Manning’s autobiography, All is Grace. Manning is a former Catholic priest and traveling speaker, best known for his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, which is still my favorite book outside of the Bible. I heard him speak in 1995, when I was a new believer and he “opened” for Rich Mullins at South United Methodist Church in Manchester, and have read most of his books. Manning has an ability to communicate the love and grace of God in a way that is profoundly beautiful and always reminds me that “Jesus loves me just as I am, not as I should be, since none of us are as we should be.”
Manning was also an incurable alcoholic who, according to his autobiography, most likely walked away from the beautiful talk he gave that evening in Manchester, went to his hotel room, and drank himself into an ugly stupor. In All is Grace, he recounts in painful details some of the most shameful moments of his life, including how he missed his mother’s funeral due to an alcoholic blackout in his hotel room, how he alienated his friends through his drunkenness, and how his drinking and self-centeredness ultimately contributed to the demise of his marriage.
All is grace, indeed.
The longer I live as a Christian, the more I see that life and faith is never as neat and tidy as we think it should be. We think that the good should be rewarded, the bad should suffer, and that if we commit ourselves to God, His blessing should be upon us. But Brennan Manning’s life, and the life of plenty of Biblical “heroes” – and my own life, for that matter – reveals the truth: all is grace. At the same time, Brennan Manning was a gifted speaker AND an alcoholic. David was a man after God’s heart AND a murderer and adulterer. Peter was the rock upon which the church was built AND a coward who denied even knowing Jesus. Jacob was Israel, the one who strives with God, AND a liar, cheater, and swindler. Abraham was the father of the faith AND a husband who threw his wife under the bus twice in order to escape death. And I am at the same time a man used by God to point people to Jesus AND a coward, a liar, and self-centered, apathetic, desperately-trying-to-grow-up man.
All is grace, praise Jesus.
Why would God stoop to use such fallen, broken, imperfect people? Why trust the most important message this world has ever known to the mouths of stumbling fools? Why spread the gospel of love through people who so easily judge and condemn?
Maybe because there are no other types of people. We are all fallen, broken, imperfect people. We are all stumbling fools. We are all prone to judgment and condemnation.
We are all in need of grace. We are all in need of someone to see us in all of our ugliness and say “I love you as you are, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be.” Brothers and sisters, we are the keepers of this beautiful message, the ones who have been shown great grace when we least deserved it. Now go and extend that grace to each other, that the world may know how good our God is.
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