Monday, January 9, 2012

"The Importance of Being Foolish" (Brennan Manning)

TITLE: The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus (Hardcover)
AUTHOR: Brennan Manning
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2005.

This is a very unique book with a provocative title. Essentially, it is about radical discipleship. Learning from a small community of 230 disciples who call themselves, "Little Brothers of Jesus," the author catches a glimpse of Jesus's possible early years, working quietly, invisibly, in manual labour and prayer intentionally. Through the time there, he learns:

"... that many of the burning theological issues in the church today are neither burning nor theological and that in an age characterised (in some quarters) by confusion, third-rate theatrics, and infidelity, it is not more rhetoric that Jesus demands but personal renewal, fidelity to the gospel, and creative conduct." (x)

Thinking like Jesus requires us to be foolish in the eyes of the world. This is an important imperative.

Part One talks about the way we live through three frames: Truth, Transparency, and Diversions.  In Truth, Manning talks about how passionate Jesus is with regards to truth. Firstly, the world thinks that truth telling is merely avoiding 'petty lying,' not deceiving others,' etc. Instead, truth telling begins when we 'stop deceiving ourselves' (5). It requires us to be honest about reality. We need to place more importance on the 'world of God' instead of the 'world of our material existence' (13) We need to replace our 'cynicism and pessimism' with 'awe and wonder' about God's working in this world.

The second frame of 'transparency' requires us to live like Jesus in such a way, that our thoughts, our ideas, our dreams, our desires, and our interactions with people are transparent for anyone to see. He warns us about three cloaks that cover our transparency.

"Often our preoccupation with the three most basic human desires - security, pleasure, and power - is the cloak that covers transparency. The endless struggle for enough money, good feelings, and prestige yields a rich harvest of worry, frustration, suspicion, anger, jealousy, anxiety, fear, and resentment. These powerful, emotion-backed desires cause 99 percent of the self-inflicted and unnecessary suffering in our lives. They continually focus our attention on self and keep us from being transparent,  dimming and obscuring 'the glory of God in the face of Christ.' (2 Cor 4:6) " (38-9)

Transparency means honesty with ourselves, that we need to undergo 'continual conversion.' It is a call:

"Christianity, then, comprises more than involvement in human rights struggles, environmental causes, or peace programs. Fullness of life in the Spirit is more than finding Christ in others and serving him there. It is a summons to personal holiness, ongoing conversion, and new creation through union with Christ Jesus. " (53)

The third frame of Diversions highlights how easily one is to be swayed from the path of following Jesus. The pride, the distractions, and the pursuit of security, pleasure, and power thwarts our path toward holiness and God.

These three frames set the stage for another three frames in Part Two of the book, entitled, "The Mind of Christ." Having the mind of Christ requires the pursuit of God and to let the self be transcended by the love of God. Becoming more like Christ requires a heart of repentance. It entails identifying ourselves with the work of the kingdom.

Part Three reveals the power of the cross and the resurrection wisdom that the world cannot understand. They are foolishness to the world. Wisdom in God means that we will be laughed at, spat upon, and bullied by the world, just like Jesus. It is the point that the world will never know and will never understand.

My Comments

I find this book particularly touching because it is so counter-cultural. Unlike books that tell people about the merits of spirituality in terms of success, good feelings, and inspirational stuff, Manning adopts a no-holds-barred exposition on 1 Cor 1:24, to proclaim Christ crucified and the power of the cross and the resurrection. Spiritual wisdom is not worldly cleverness. Instead, spiritual wisdom may require followers to be ridiculed, laughed at, taunted, spat upon, disregarded, dismissed, and cast aside. Manning weaves in powerful stories and shares his convictions plainly without mincing his words. His concluding words are riveting and convicting.

"How long have you been a Christian? How long have you been living in the Spirit? Do you know what it is to love Jesus Christ? Do you know what it is to have your love unsatisfied, endured in loneliness, and ready to burst your restless, ravenous heart? Do you know what it is to have the pain taken away, the hole filled up, to reach out and embrace this sacred Man and say sincerely, 'I cannot let you go. In good times and bad, victory or defeat, my life has no meaning without you.' If this experience has not illuminated your life with its brilliance, then regardless of age, disposition, or state in life, you do not understand what it means to be a Christian. This and this alone is authentic Christianity." (173-4)

Ratings: 4.75 stars of 5.


No comments:

Post a Comment