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 they shared:
These three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV
The essence of life is boiled down to three things: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these three is love. Yes, I want to be a person of love. That’s what this world needs. The world’s on fire, the water that puts out the fire is that of love. We need love in this world.
Love is good and helpful, but it’s still not enough.
Jesus brought it down to street level. He said…
Love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:39
That’s a bit more helpful. I can’t do something for everybody, but I might be able to love the person next to me.
- Just love your neighbor.
- Just do something for your neighbor.
What happens if everybody does that? If everybody does that, everybody gets loved.
If everybody grabs a bucket, our individual buckets might seem overpowered by the raging fire, but when there’s a bucket brigade, we might actually accomplish something.
We’re getting somewhere, but there are still questions: “So who is my neighbor?”
To this question, Jesus tells a story known as the Good Samaritan.
A man is injured, lying on the side of the road. He was jumped by a couple of hooligans, robbed, and left for dead. A couple of religious leaders saw the man lying on the side of the road, but for self-protective reasons, they crossed to the other side and did nothing for the man. Evidently, they reasoned “That guy’s not my neighbor. He doesn’t live anywhere near me. I don’t need to do anything for him. I’m just commanded to love my neighbor. I’ll protect myself by moving to the other side of the road. I’ll just focus on my neighbors.”
It’s the “Not my problem” approach.
But then a Samaritan comes along, a guy who in the culture Jesus was speaking to, was not respected. He was a half-breed, the step child of the Jewish nation. Even still this Samaritan lifts the ailing man, takes him to a local hotel, puts him up, leaves money with the inn keeper for the man’s well-being, and goes on his way. After telling this story, Jesus says to the man who asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:36-37
My neighbor is not just the person who lives next to me. We don’t go through the world, ignoring needs around us, because those needs don’t happen to live next door. We come across needs, and in that moment, that person is our neighbor. I’ve crossed paths with this person. They have a need. I have the ability to meet that need. I’m going to use my little bucket to put this little fire out.
The problems that surround us may be complicated, but the further I get down the path on this journey, the more convinced I am that the most profound solutions are found in the simple.
Jesus recognizes that his followers want to do GREAT things with their lives. They want their lives to matter.
So Jesus calls his 12 disciples together, and he tells them what it takes to be great:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:42-45, NIV
If you want to be great, you serve. You meet needs. You roll up your sleeves and get into the muck and mire of real lives. You love your neighbor. That’s greatness. Serve your neighbor.
Reflect on this question: How do I genuinely and authentically have a heart for people?
How do I get to place where I’m serving, not because I want to be seen, and not because I want to be noticed, and not because I want to clear my conscious, but because I actually do care about people.
Hear carefully hope from Scripture. God says to us:
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26, NIV
God is in the business of giving us hearts that beat with genuine love for people. This new heart event is both a one time event and a daily event.
To show love, learn to listen. Ask genuine questions not nosey questions! Scripture models and teaches the practice of being interested, of asking powerful questions:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak… – James 1:19, NIV
You want to serve your neighbor? Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
Other passages say something similar:
Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them. – Proverbs 29:20
Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. – Ecclesiastes 10:12
Hear this very carefully:
Followers of Christ make a severe mistake when we approach people with answers. We are far more effective when we approach people with questions.
With that in mind, consider our word BLESSING.
We talk about loving our neighbors by being a BLESSING, which we use as an acronym for how to best love others.
- B – Begin Praying
- L – Listen
- E – Eat Together
- S – Serve
- S – Share your Story
- I – Inspire Service
- N – Networks
- G- Groups
Do you see how the first three make the fourth meaningful?
If I begin by praying: “God, give me a heart for people. I don’t want to be self serving. I want to authentically serve others.”
And if I then listen to God, and listen to the people around me, and I ask questions. It is then that I get to know people.
How do I do that?
- We eat together.
- We spend time together.
- All of that leads to meaningful acts of service.