From the description of John Burke‘s book Unshockable Love: How Jesus Changes the World through Imperfect People (formerly Mud and the Masterpiece):
“We are designed to make an impact in our world, and we can start by loving our neighbor.
What do you see when you look at the imperfect people around you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you shocked at the faults, failures, and moral shortcomings? Or do you see the beauty and potential that God said was worth dying for, the masterpiece hidden beneath the mud of sin in every person? How you frame a person in your mind makes all the difference.
Apply the message to your life through the following NEXT STEPS:
Here are some of the thoughts we shared:
How you picture someone, how you feel about them, what you hold in your mind’s eye really matters. People can pick up on how you feel about them, and this will change how willing they are to consider what you have to say. Jesus saw something of immense value in people that the Pharisees considered worthless. He saw the Masterpiece under the Mud that He wanted to restore.
How do we learn to picture what God sees in our mental framework? How do we begin to call out the Masterpiece in others? When you start to pray for people, ask God to show you what He sees—speak out encouraging words. People long for it, but don’t often get it.
Jesus said Love God first, but equally important “Love your neighbor as much as you do yourself.” Every other command of the Bible is commentary on what it means to do that. But how do we actually do that so that God restores what’s lost and broken in this world through imperfect people like us? That’s what we’re talking about in this Unshockable Love series. Neighbors might be people God’s put in your path. God changes the world life by life as we Love our Neighbors.
To prepare to love our Neighbors like we want to be loved—we need to evaluate — “am I’m more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees.”
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I Restore Value or Mentally De-Value People?
Do you realize that when you meet eyes with another person, no matter how irritating their stains are, no matter how annoying their muddy behavior, no matter how debased or dirty their lifestyle—there’s a Masterpiece created in the Image of God under all that mud. That’s what Jesus sees in you, it’s what He wants you to see in others.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God…For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:8-10
The Pharisees had no Spiritual Vision past the stain and mud. They de-valued people mentally based on what they saw, but didn’t like. Jesus did the opposite—yes, there was sinful junk Jesus didn’t like, Yes—he wanted to remove the mud, but that only happens by helping people Identify with the Masterpiece God intended, so they will trust Him to remove the mud. What do you see as you have conversations and hear in graphic detail stuff you don’t like or agree with? Do you only see mud, or do you see the Masterpiece? What you focus on first opens or closes doors. The way you see people in your mind’s eye—How you frame people, how you picture them–that’s what makes the biggest difference relationally!
Do I Hold Mercy or Judgment in My Heart?
Here’s a powerful truth you probably never thought much about: It’s what you hold in your heart that matters most relationally! That’s what causes those maddening fights in relationships. The reality is something got communicated beyond the mere words. As you know, words make up only about 10% of communication–the rest of what gets communicated is non-verbal, tone, body language. I would like to suggest something even more subliminal gets communicated too – our heart.
We can actually perceive what’s in the heart of another person–how they feel about us. If someone is against you, holding a grudge, no matter what they say—you intuitively can tell they’re not for you. It makes you defensive, guarded, doesn’t it? To be influential, life-giving people—like Jesus, we must pay attention to the mental frameworks we put people in. The picture we hold of them in our minds, the way we feel about them more than the words we say—that has the greatest impact. If you are truly for people–if you hold good will toward them in your heart, if you highly value them, People can hear all kinds of difficult things because they’ll know you are for them. But if what you hold in your heart toward another person is devaluing, judging, manipulating, or self-centered–people will be defensive and resistant.
But how, you may ask, can I hold good thoughts in my heart, when people are so bad? Good question.
Jesus offered Mercy to people who deserved Judgment. In Luke 4, Jesus gets up in the Synagogue and reads from Isaiah 61 about His mission:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and… – Isaiah 61:1-2
Jesus cuts off in mid-sentence. He says, “I’ve come to let struggling people, broken by poverty, captive to addictions, in dark spiritual places know that this is the time of God’s Favor—God is For You, Not Against You! But Isaiah goes on to say “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the judgment of our God.” Why did Jesus cut out the part about Judgment?
Because that’s coming—a day is coming when God will set all things straight and Justice will be done. But first, He offers Mercy to everyone who realizes they need it—He offers restoration to all who recognize they need God’s restoration help. If Jesus did not come to judge and condemn, but instead Restore and Set Free—if that’s the age we’re in, do we represent His Message to our neighbors? Do you feel compassion and mercy for struggling people? Pharisees love to judge people! Twice Jesus says, “Go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” The system of Pharisees is one of feeling superiority compared to others. It’s what all humans do.
Judging is our favorite pastime. Instead, monitor your thoughts. We’re great at judging the world by standards we would highly resent being held to! God wants us to receive His Grace, mercy, love, joy, peace given as a gift. Only then can we be honest about our own mud and stain, not feel judged or condemned, and let God restore us into non-judgmental masterpieces. That changes the world.
Do you hold Judgment or offer mercy? Mercy and compassion is how we love our neighbor.
Do I Engage In Spiritual Dialogue or Monologue?
Many Christians think their job is “telling” rather than “asking.” The Pharisees liked to tell people things—talk at people—talk down to people—correct and fix people. Jesus listened and asked questions and provoked spiritual curiosity. If we’re going to be more like Jesus, here’s what we need to do:
- ASK Simple Questions Jesus was asked 183 questions in the Gospels. He asked 307 questions (2x what people asked him). This week try something, “Walk, Don’t Wave”—we see neighbors and we wave—instead, walk across the street—walk to their cube—just ask simple questions to learn about them.
- LISTEN Actively – Listening shows a person you value them—what they think, their story Matters. Look them in the eyes, imagine the Masterpiece, listen and ask follow up questions. You don’t have change or fix things you disagree with—trust God with that—just be curious.
- EAT with neighbors –Jesus did this. The Pharisees complained “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” Matthew 9:11-13
Wouldn’t it be great if we became known by our neighbors and coworkers as the most encouraging, life-giving, loving people they’ve ever known? Then we’d be like Jesus.