Brennan Manning passed away early on Friday, April 12; he was 79 years old.
I am beyond thankful for the life and writings of Brennan Manning. I know he was a flawed and sinful man; everybody did–he never tried to hide it. He was always very transparent with the depth of his failings and, more importantly, the depth of God’s love and grace.
It was through one of Brennan’s books that grace truly broke through into my life while I was in college. I’d grown up in a Christian home, going to Sunday school every week, and learning what I had to do to get into heaven (which essentially boiled down to “being good”). But I found myself, more often than not, confessing the words of Paul in Romans 7:19, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
Somehow, I stumbled across The Ragamuffin Gospel, and here’s what happened (as I wrote — and preached last summer):
Years ago, I read The Ragamuffin Gospel … and it changed my life. After years of guilt and shame at not being able to live up to the standard I thought I was ‘supposed to’ live up to, falling short in failing to always treat people kindly, in losing my temper (I was an angry teenager, too!), in struggling with issues of lust and pornography, in taking for granted the many blessings I had been given rather than accepting them with gratitude and using them to bless others, and in a hundred different other ways—for the first time, through the words of this book, I began to truly understand grace—amazing grace, the grace of Jesus Christ.
I realized—not just in my head but in the very core of my being—that I didn’t have to work to earn God’s favor any more. I realized that God wasn’t keeping track of the number of times I’d failed and fallen. I realized that God loves me, accepts me, and welcomes me, as I am. I realized what it means when Paul writes, in Romans 5:8, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Philip Yancey wrote in the foreword to Brennan’s memoir, All is Grace:
Like Christian, the everyman character in The Pilgrim’s Progress, [Brennan] progressed not by always making right decisions but by responding appropriately to wrong ones.
Thank you, Brennan, for walking the road you did, and for inviting so many others into the wideness of God’s mercy.
Rest in peace.