Go Ahead, Criticize My Faith

or Provocative Love, Outrageous Grace

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My faith is about love and grace. It is about a provocative act of love stemming from a stunning desire to extend outrageous grace.

Some find this kind of love and grace difficult or impossible to accept. They think it must be either a myth or fantasy.

Others are curious; they find it compelling, but couldn’t possibly think they are worthy to be loved in this way. They possess too much guilt or shame to welcome the free gift grace could supply.

Still others think this abundant love and grace offensive and inflammatory. Surely there are rules and laws preventing this controversial, radical kind of love and grace. Love must not be unseemly; grace must be saved for those who repent, who are sorry for their sins!

The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith. How I treat a brother or sister from day to day…how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car. Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

My faith urges me to follow Jesus. Jesus told us the only way people would know we were His followers would be through love:

Jesus told us the two most important commands were to love God and love our neighbors. (Mark 12:30-31)

He told us to love our enemies and forgive them. (Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:43-44, Luke 6:27, 35; 23:34) How can I, then, do otherwise if I am to be His student, His follower? How can I obey some of His commands because they are easy, and ignore others because they are difficult or because I disagree with them?

So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others. John 12:34-35

My faith tells me I must pick up my cross daily and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23) Yet Jesus tells me His burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30) What is His burden? To love. To give grace.

In the Parable of the Lost Son, the younger son never had a chance to say, “Sorry.” The father ran to him and forgave him before he uttered a word. The father gave grace without repentance.

In the story of the woman accused of adultery, Jesus told those about to stone her to cast the first stone if they were free of sin. After they all left, He asked her if anyone was left to condemn her. There was not. He told her he would not condemn her either. He told her to go and sin no more. He never asked her to say, “Sorry.” Jesus gave grace without repentance.

This is the real Christianity. This is my faith. So, if you want to criticize my faith,

Criticize me for being found lacking in grace when someone hurts me or disagrees with me.

Criticize me for neglecting to remind you that you are a beloved child of God – whoever and wherever you are at this very moment.

Criticize me for failing to declare God’s a passionate love for those who society condemns, for those cast out by self-righteous “Christians,” for those on the receiving end of platitudes like, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Criticize me for not loving enough; for not having an open, bleeding heart; for lacking an uncompromising, unconditional, unassailable love for those who are unlike me.

For all those who God has created in His image.

©1990, 2000, 2005, Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, p.141, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO 80920

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