How easily shocked are you by the lives of others who are different from you?
When we continually surround ourselves only with people who have similar belief systems and values, it can result in fear, judgment, and distancing ourselves from others who are different. But this is not Christ-like. In fact, it is more like the Pharisees in the Bible. The Pharisees were the religious ones, the rule-enforcers, the ones who lived a separate life. They judged and condemned others while being blind to their own sinful ways. In contrast, Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), He ate with sinners (Matthew 9:11) and touched untouchable lepers (Matthew 8:3). He didn’t withdraw from them. He drew near to them. John Burke, the author of Unshockable Love: How Jesus Changes the World through Imperfect People, challenges us to examine our hearts to see whether we are more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees.
Why should we accept this challenge?
Primarily, because as Christ-followers, we want to see lost people saved. Jesus saved sinners (including us!). The Pharisees burdened people with heavy loads of rules and they didn’t lift a finger to help (Matthew 23:4). If we want to reach the lost in our time, we need to avoid being “Pharisees” and instead allow Jesus to work through us. John Burke’s church is an example of a local body of believers on mission with Jesus, and he shares about their experiences in Unshockable Love. He is the lead pastor and co-founder of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas, which has 4500 members consisting mostly of unchurched people who became Christ-followers there!
In Part One of the book, Burke describes how to see others through the eyes of Jesus, including Biblical examples of Jesus’ ministry and numerous testimonies about how Jesus is transforming lives now through imperfect people who are willing to be on mission with Him. In Part Two, he provides simple, practical steps we can implement to enjoy the adventure of a life on mission with Jesus. Our imperfections need not stifle us. We just need to be willing.
But first, what is meant by “unshockable love”?
Essentially, it refers to the love of Jesus. He was never shocked by the sins and brokenness of the people He met. He did not allow their problems to deter Him from pursuing a relationship with them. He never distanced Himself for fear of marring His reputation. He didn’t judge them, but offered them healing and forgiveness. If we are like Christ, then we will love people the way He loves them. We will offer “unshockable love.”
Let’s face it. All of our lives are shockingly messy. All of us were on a path of destruction. Not one of us is perfect. But Jesus has chosen to use imperfect people like us to change the world. This is the power of the gospel, the good news. Unshockable Love includes many inspiring stories about people who have begun to follow Jesus because imperfect people were instruments in His hands.
How can we be those instruments?
If we are truly following Christ, our interactions with others should look like His, made possible by the presence of His Spirit in us. He has entrusted us with the message and ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19). What we have to offer is very good news! Hope in a hopeless world. Marvelous light in the midst of deepening darkness. Everlasting joy where sensual pleasures are fleeting. Acceptance and validation of intrinsic worth in a society where counterfeit and superficial relationships abound.
Jesus invites His followers to make disciples, working through us to reveal Himself to others. As they behold His glory in us, His Spirit transforms them from the inside out. Burke gives us practical advice about how to participate with Jesus. First, we must be willing. Then we can build relationships with people, interacting with them like Jesus did with people in the Bible. We can invite them to serve with our small groups and larger networks where they can experience community with other Christ-followers. We can offer a learning space for everyone to come as they are and accept them without being shocked by their appearance, their demeanor, their words, or their companions. Jesus performs the miracle of restoration in them, exactly as He is doing in us!
Throughout his book, Burke uses the imagery of a Masterpiece covered in mud: “Why do we struggle to treat people like the immensely valuable, one-of-a-kind Masterpiece God created with his own hand? … Jesus could see past the mud to the Masterpiece God wanted to restore” (Unshockable Love, p. 23). Burke asks us to consider what we see when we look at people, including ourselves. Do we see the mud or can we envision the Masterpiece lying beneath the mud? Will we allow God to change our perspective and then use us as instruments in His hand to restore Masterpiece after Masterpiece?
If you don’t know Jesus, allow me to introduce you. He sees each person as a Masterpiece He created in His own image for His pleasure. He loves us and is not shocked by our messes. He doesn’t withdraw and separate Himself from us. Just the opposite. He “is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
If you do know Jesus, my prayer is that ou will take this challenge with me. Let’s evaluate our lives and ask the Lord to show us whether we are more like the Pharisees or more like Jesus. Let’s allow Him to transform our attitudes and break down the barriers we have constructed so we will be willing vessels. Let’s invite other Masterpieces to be restored by the Master.