Becoming a Christian is not a magical enterprise by which we are automatically transformed into better people. We must train to become who God intends us to be. In The Importance of Being Foolish, bestselling Christian author Brennan Manning teaches us how to think like Jesus. By reorienting our lives according to the gospel we may appear to be fools in the eyes of the world, but Manning reveals that this is exactly what Jesus wants.
In a powerful exploration of the mind of Christ, Manning reveals how our obsession with security, pleasure, and power prevents us from living rich and meaningful lives. Our endless struggle to acquire money, good feelings, and prestige yields a rich harvest of worry, frustration, and resentment. Manning explores what Christ's mind was truly focused on: finding the Father, compassion for others, a heart of forgiveness, and the work of the kingdom.
Coming from the gentle yet compelling voice of Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish is a refreshing reminder of the radical call of Jesus and the transforming love of God.
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The Importance of Being FoolishHow to Think Like Jesus
By Brennan Manning
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Brennan Manning
All right reserved.
The gospel narrative of the cleansing of the temple is a disconcerting scene (John 2:13-22). It presents us with the portrait of an angry Savior. The meek Lamb of God who said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29), has fashioned a homemade whip and begun tearing through the temple, overturning stalls and showcases, thrashing the merchants and roaring, "Get out of here! This isn't Wal-Mart. You will not turn sacred space into a shopping excursion! You liars! To visit the temple is a sign of reverence for my Father. Get out of here!"
What is even more disconcerting is Jesus's relentless passion for the truth. In our society, where money, power, and pleasure are the name of the game, the body of truth is bleeding from a thousand wounds. Many of us have been lying to ourselves for so long that our comforting illusions and rationalizations have assumed a patina of truth; we clutch them to our hearts the way a child clutches a favorite teddy bear. Not convinced? Consider the man on his third luncheon martini quoting the Apostle Paul about a little wine being good for the stomach; or the"liberated" Christian's vehement defense of the nudity in The Last Tango in Paris, the violence in Pulp Fiction, or the oral sex scene in My Private Idaho, because they are "integral to the plot and tastefully done"; or the upstanding church deacon who overlooks cheating and manipulation in his business dealings because "it's the only way to be competitive"; or whole churches in which the delirium of guiltlessness is reality, the mastery of biblical exegesis is holiness, the size of the congregation is proof of its authenticity, and on and on. There is no limit to the defenses we contrive against the inbreak of truth into our lives.
The painful question we face in the church today is whether the love of God can be purchased so cheaply. The first step in the pursuit of truth is not the moral resolution to avoid the habit of petty lying--however unattractive a character disfigurement that may be. It is not the decision to stop deceiving others. It is the decision to stop deceiving ourselves. Unless we have the same relentless passion for the truth that Jesus exhibited in the temple, we are undermining our faith, betraying the Lord, and deceiving ourselves. Self-deception is the enemy of wholeness because it prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are. It covers up our lack of growth in the Spirit of the truthful One and keeps us from coming to terms with our real personalities.
Many years ago I witnessed the power of selfdeception dramatically reenacted in the alcoholic rehabilitation center of a small American town. The scene (which is excerpted from my earlier work The Ragamuffin Gospel ): A large, split-level living room set on the brow of a hill overlooking an artificial lake. Twenty-five men, all chemically dependent on alcohol or drugs, have gathered. Croesus O'Connor, a recovering alcoholic, is the head honcho--a trained counselor, skilled therapist, and senior member of the staff. He summons Max, a small, diminutive man, to sit alone in the center of the U-shaped group. Max is a nominal Christian, married with five children, owner and president of his own company, wealthy and affable, gifted with a remarkable poise. O'Connor begins the interrogation:
"How long you been drinking like a pig, Max?"
Max winces. "That's not quite fair."
"We'll see. Let's get into your drinking history. How much per day?"
"Well, I have two Marys with the men before lunch and two Martins when the office closes at five. Then. . . ."
"What in God's name are Marys and Martins?" Croesus interrupts.
"Bloody Marys--vodka, tomato juice, a dash of Worcestershire--and Martinis--extra dry, straight up, ice cold, with an olive and lemon twist."
"Thank you, Mary Martin. Go on."
"The wife likes a drink before dinner. Got her hooked on Martins years back." Max smiles. "You understand that, right, guys?" No one responds. "We have two then and two before bed."
"Eight drinks a day, Max?" Croesus inquires.
"That's right. Not a drop more, not a drop less."
"You're a liar!"
Max is not ruffled. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that. Been in business twenty-eight years. People know my word is my bond. Built my reputation on veracity, not mendacity."
"Ever hide a bottle in your house?" asks Benjamin, a Native American from New Mexico.
"Don't be ridiculous. Got a bar in my living room as big as a horse 's ass. Nothing personal, Mr. O'Connor." Mary Martin is smiling again.
Excerpted from The Importance of Being Foolish by Brennan Manning Copyright © 2006 by Brennan Manning. Excerpted by permission.
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“Being Foolish is a message of unsettling grace. It is the best kind of wisdom.”