The Beat Goes On

In the breast of every man and woman beats the heart of a hero.

That beating may be muted. It may be tentative and unfocused. It may be congested by sin and scars and accumulated failures. It may falter with a sense of unworthiness and self-doubt.

But the beat is there if you listen closely enough. Resilient and hopeful. The echo of what we were meant to be. The sinus rhythm of the lives for which God created us.

Jesus had an ear for the suppressed and stifled hearts of those around him. He picked out Peter’s hero-heart amidst the proud and stubborn arrhythmias that had become the characteristic thump of the Fisherman’s life. He heard the stubborn contra-rhythm—the improbable yearning for nobility and meaning—in the hearts of prostitutes and tax collectors and beggars. He listened to the hearts of Nicodemus and a woman by a Samaritan well and a Roman centurion, hearing in them all the higher pulse that is God’s gift to his noblest creation.

And he appealed to that hero’s heart with every interaction. “You will be fishers of men,” he told a band of sweating, slimy-handed manual laborers who were convinced their lives would revolve around nets and bow-lines rather than the transformation of the world. “Go and sin no more,” he told a disheveled woman, believing she was capable of more even when she had resigned herself to fleeting assignations and illicit affections. “You will be my witness,” he told a young man burning with self-righteous rage, the would-be-persecutor reimagined by Jesus as the messenger proclaiming the very truth he tried to suppress.

It was, perhaps, Jesus’ greatest gift—this ability to listen past the mediocre and compromised in us to find the God-tuned beat beneath. He never met a person in whom he couldn’t recognize someone better, brighter, bigger within. And, because he saw that nobler self in others, he frequently succeeded in making them see that self as well.

Are you listening to the hearts of those around you?

Too often, all we hear are the disappointments that mask the sounds of higher life within. Our ears pick out only the stuttering cadences of lives-gone-wrong. We critique our own and others failings. We point out the flaws and foibles. We stress how off-the-beat our hearts have grown in contrast to the steady rhythms of the heart of God.

We believe we do others a great favor by diagnosing their heart disease rather than encouraging the heart God created and nurtures within us all.

But the greatest favor we do for those around us it to recognize and rescue the larger lives God meant for each of us to live.

All too often, the people we know are defined (and define themselves) by what we hear in them. If the dominant beat we listen for is the misfiring of failed lives, that will become the focus in our interactions with others and will determine the quality of our relationships. People rarely grow beyond the boundaries set for them by those they love.

If, on the other hand, we tune our ears to the best in each person, we do something more than simply describe the faltering hearts in ourselves and others … we become something greater than mere mourners of the broken human condition. Like Jesus, we can choose to discern the nobler self in others, and—in doing so—succeed in helping them find that self as well

By this, we are transformed from judges and faultfinders into purveyors of hope. By this, we offer those around us the confidence that God’s heart beats within them and can—once more—become the dominant rhythm of their lives.

The essence of evangelism lies less in bemoaning the brokenness of others than in helping others hear the possibility of God’s heart within. It doesn’t take any special skill to tell what’s wrong with people—most of us are only too familiar with that sound. What Christians can offer others is something infinitely greater: the reverberation of God pounding inside each human breast, awaiting only the power of God’s Spirit to shock our hearts back into a nobler beat.