Monday, January 27, 2014

Do you see mud or masterpieces in humanity? @J0hnBurke

One of the biggest complaints non-Christians have about Christians is feeling like they're being condemned. Many Christians feel the need to call out sin and remind people of how fallen they are prior to telling them about the love of Christ. I've discussed my perspective before, strongly disagreeing with this viewpoint, instead advocating for the importance of encouraging people and helping them feel valued.

John Burke's newest book, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others Through the Eyes of Jesus argues a similar perspective. Burke's basic thesis is that there is mud covering the masterpiece that is humanity, created in the image of God. We often put too much focus on the mud, sometimes discarding the masterpiece that has been covered. Instead, we need to recognize the masterpiece, focusing on restoring the beauty of God's work of art rather than on how ugly the mud looks.

Burke does a wonderful job of providing support of this approach through biblical references and powerful anecdotes. Since he narrates the audiobook version, you can hear the authenticity of his words. His approach to building community and moving people toward Christ is right on in my mind.

What may surprise some people who may think this grace-filled approach is only for liberals is that Burke has pretty traditionally conservative evangelical values. They come out through his anecdotes, but unlike some of his more notorious colleagues, he's not heavy-handed. He doesn't shove these values down anyone's throat from what I heard. Also absent was any form of guilt, shame, or condemnation. If more people who shared his worldview approached others in his way, there would be far more growth in Christian churches.

But that's where my criticism of the books lies: It's primarily focused on reaching the non-Christians and bringing them into relationship with Christ. And it is an excellent book for that. But the basic principle of the text is so important for Christians lifelong. This is also where many churches fall short--they do a wonderful job of getting people in the door, but continuing to support their development is a major challenge and shortfall, as I've previously discussed.

At one point, Burke bemoans the stagnant immaturity of many Christians in churches, but then doesn't connect his incredibly important arguments to this problem. Even a chapter or two could have been applied to noting how calling out the masterpiece of people can continue to help people's spiritual formation. Perhaps Burke hasn't consciously applied this theme to that area yet.

All in all, this is a meaningful book with a very strong message. Indeed, recognizing the masterpiece of God's work is central to the Gospel, and Burke aptly demonstrates the power of this message on people's lives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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