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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Unshockable Love" (John Burke)

TITLE: Unshockable Love: How Jesus Changes the World through Imperfect People
AUTHOR: John Burke
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014, (304 pages).

Do we have the heart of Jesus or the heart of a Pharisee? Why are sinners during Jesus' time more attracted to Jesus rather than the religious leaders of their day? Author of "No Perfect People Allowed," John Burke believes that the world is changed through ordinary imperfect people like you and me. Previously published under the old title, "Mud and the Masterpiece," the new title gives a more direct description of the book's main point: Jesus was able to care and love people just as they are because his love for them is unshockable. Combing the Bible for every single encounter with ordinary people, Burke desires to find out what exactly makes Jesus' life so "magnetic." This he does with an observant and a servant attitude. Part One is about first things first: Attitude. Before learning to be like Jesus in relating and loving people, one needs to see Jesus's attitude toward people. Jesus is one who sees the masterpiece in us rather than the mud on our faces. Regardless of labels, positions, reputations, and conditions of a person, Jesus loves unconditionally. He restores. He encourages. He sees the potential more than the failures of people. He knows what people need most and points people to the living water, the everlasting life, and the unconditional love. At the same time, he does not minces his words about sin and sinfulness. He speaks the truth in love, does not play politics, but willing to subject himself to harsh reactions. He listens to the real needs of people before asking if they want help. Rather than trying to fix or manipulate, Jesus invites. He shows. He points the way to the Father. Despite being the perfect person on earth, he shares in the pain of people especially when the imperfect people stumble. The Pharisees may have their doctrines cut out correctly and full of hard facts. However, they lack the heart truths.

Part Two studies the actions of Jesus. Framed in a "wave of impact" model, Burke provides seven stages to demonstrate how ordinary people can do extraordinary things, in Jesus.
  1. Build Relationships
  2. Create Community
  3. Serving Our Neighbors
  4. Leading People to Faith
  5. Helping People Grow
  6. Developing Leaders
  7. Multiply For Impact
Burke proposes the use of a "three-legged stool" to drive the wave. First, they need to be people who learn and demonstrate the attitude and actions of Jesus. Second, they cultivate a network of likeminded people in loving the community they serve. Third, they constantly encourage a "come as you are" graciousness. At the end of it all, readers will realize that this book is saying that we are all

If "No Perfect People Allowed" is about creating community and acceptance within the Church, this book stretches beyond to urge Christians to venture forth outside their comfortable church circles. The same attitude can be applied in terms of our hospitality. For when the heart is with Jesus, all one would do is to share the love of Jesus far and wide. I still have mixed feelings about whether this new title is better than the old. The old brings into focus Jesus' perspective of people a bit more directly, that behind every sin-muddied face, there is a masterpiece to be discovered. This new title takes a slightly different approach to show Jesus' love for people as unshockable simply because love is exactly that: unshockable. Here are my three reasons for reading this book.

First, it reminds us that because of sin, there are no perfect people on earth. That is why we cannot exert perfectionist expectation on others. The way we see people must be from the eyes of a sinner saved by grace. There are some people who trumpet the merits of Christianity, boast about the powers of God, and at the same time, adorning prideful attitudes that turn people off, just like the Pharisees. Before we even tell other people off, remember how Jesus sees us in the first place. That is why Part One of the book is so crucial, that we see and learn from Jesus' attitude toward people. It is a major starting point before any good work.

Second, we are changed not by what we do, but by what Jesus had done. Burke is able to write so powerfully and with conviction due to the deep awareness of Jesus' love in action. We see how Jesus invites and not force, engages people where they are, and speaks the truth in love when necessary. The trouble with some people is how they are quick to judge and slow to listen. We learn from Burke's observations of how Jesus interacts.

Third, the title "unschockable love" can become a rallying point of action. In our current climate of rising hostility toward Christianity, it is common to see Christians go on a retreat to mind their own business and to simply do church indoors. Point is, just because people are stubborn does not mean we react negatively to them. When our hearts inside are "unshockable," and our faith in Jesus is unshakeable, we will learn to wait when necessary, speak with needed, and to stay silent where appropriate. All in all, there is nothing to stop us from praying and seeking God's kingdom be done everywhere we go.

Written for the ordinary believer, this book is encouraging and heartwarming. More importantly, it is a gentle nudge for one to let the love of God in our hearts lead the way.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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