I’m new to Brennan Manning. Shortly after college, my roommate was seriously impacted by The Ragamuffin Gospel. My wife owns a copy, and it rests in dust with the other basement-banished books. I will need to retrieve it soon, however, as Manning proves to be encouraging and convicting in his latest book, The Furious Longing of God.
Manning makes three major points in his book:
- God longs for us furiously, as made evident by Song of Solomon 7:10: “I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me.” (ESV) If God loves us so passionately, why don’t we share that love with others?
- Our actions reflect Christ, so if we fail to love those around us then we fail to make Christ visible to the world.
- We must love. If we don’t, we cannot be healed and neither can those who continue to hurt.
I am most struck by Manning’s charge to quit worrying about our own personal agendas, about keeping track of who is living what lifestyle. We see the Christian outcry over civil unions and gay marriage. We fret over creationism being banned from the public school classroom. We criticize youth based solely on appearance. And Manning says to cut it out. Our greater American culture tells us that there is no place for God in the public sphere. And we complain, and cry, and demand legislation.
Manning has already called the Waaaaaaambulance to take us away. If the Christian community spent time building relationships and responding to people with compassion and grace instead of demanding that everyone live according to Biblical values, what would the public image of Christianity be then?
I’m critical because I have failed miserably at responding to my surroundings with grace, humility, and compassion. I’m guilty of relying on the guilt of legalism instead of grace in managing my classroom. I avoided the gay waiters I worked with at Red Robin. I dream of the tongue lashings I can give people after they’ve wronged me. I talk about taking care of the poor, but have failed to follow through.
And none of these behaviors draw anybody closer to the cross of Christ. So how do we change? How do we shift from legalistic judgmentalism to the furious longing of love?
Manning suggests a simple prayer: “Abba, I belong to you.” I’ve added another line: “May my next action be one love.”