Hearts and Labels. The gospel of bums made victorious

It used to be that the worst thing you could say about somebody was that they had “no heart.” Today it seems that the best way to offend a dude is to “label” him. I get it. We resist being defined by the outside world. Really at the end of the day, you can think I have no heart all day but just try and not tell me to my face. Our skin is so thinned by our drug of choice that we would trade respect for peace and quiet because we are afraid that a solid shot will make us bleed. It seems like we have no heart.

Among my favorite movies I would have to list four out of five of the Rocky series. There was a guy with heart even if he had little else. Do you remember the beginning of the first movie when he lived in that rat-infested hovel of a bachelor pad? Everybody had given up on him including the one guy who should have been on his side- his own manager. Early on, Rocky tells Adrian:

All I wanted to do was to prove I was no bum, that I had the stuff to make a good pro.

Rocky may not admit it and maybe you are not there yet, but we are all seeking significance. Whether it is in the back of our minds or the front of our minds we are afraid of failure. We want to make our own label, even if the rest of the world will never see it. We want to make our own way. So we follow our hearts.

And this is where the real problem begins. At the end of the day we really have no heart. I mean, lets be honest for a second, we are all terrified of criticism. It feels like a personal attack. We cannot take a punch because our skin is so very thin.

C. S. Lewis talked about this very issue in his little essay called The Abolition of Man, which is well-worth a couple of hours of your attention. He points out that we are a people raised to make it in the world purely on our rationality. He used a then-current grammar book that taught children all-too-subtly the danger of employing emotion, feeling and experience pose to intellectual development. Children in Lewis’ day were being taught that the emotions and experiences we encounter are at war with the rational man.
Can you imagine that? An entire generation, of man raised without a heart.

Well, it turns out it takes no imagination to envision a generation of men and women raised without a heart. We are right there with our fathers. King Solomon was right once again- there is nothing new under the sun. Does this sound strange to you?

After all, which generation of Adam’s sons has ever been raised to rely more on emotions and experiences? Quick, think of one movie that John Wayne cried in. No? Ok, think of one movie Mel Gibson cried in. Brad Pitt? Matthew McConaughey? Even the heroes we have been raised on cry in nearly every role they are given. They seem to be driven by their heart, right? Well, Lewis may disagree again.

You see, the danger in this conversation lies on either extreme. Where the Baby Boomers were moved by seemingly detached, thoughtful action, Generation X screams, wails and cries non-stop. My generation, the so-called Millennials, have done the same as our fathers. We have detached head and emotion. What we believe seems to have little bearing on what becomes our reality.

When it is all said and done our problem is the same as our grandparents. At the end of the day we have no heart.

It is the heart, Lewis argued, that connects our thoughts and feelings. Just as we were not made to only think we were not made to only feel. There is a wholeness in God’s design that we have traded for a numbed-out, half-hearted peace and quiet. It’s time to get some heart.

And where do we look for this heart that will bring it all together? Our hearts have so often led us astray in the past and it turns out that Jeremiah was right- they are deceitful above all else. We have numbed-out and given up in this journey time and time again. Whether it is alcohol, relationships, career, sex, money, social status or a million other things we have done in hope that we will make it on our own, we have found that these only work for a time. When we sober up from our drug of choice we can see that we are only further away from the recreation of our lives. It seems we will never find this heart and we will be forever as Lewis said, Men without chests.

Sobriety, it turns out, is the right word for this state of mind. We can finally see things as they are. We are men and women with a gaping hole between thought and emotion. We find that our knowledge has turned into pride and desire into lust. We cry out with the Apostle Paul Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death!

Can you hear the answer? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is not a non-sequitur but the answer. Jesus is the one who promises to free us from this madness. He is the one who will give us a heart that works. He will give us ears to hear. He will give us eyes to see. All of a sudden, we stumble upon what we had given up all hopes of ever finding- significance. Christ has been right here all along, with us. For us. We have not heard him because we have been drunk with our own techniques, philosophies and ideas. It is the gift of a new heart, a fleshy heart- one that can respond, strengthen and give life.

Once we grasp a hold of what God offers, we begin to realize that we need not be afraid of the things we once were. Poverty, obscurity, suffering and even death are the way of the cross. They are oftentimes the way to life. Sometimes even I believe that.

One more thing. Do you remember when Rocky decides to go the distance against Apollo Creed? Of course you do.

And if I can go that distance and that bell rings and I’m still standin’,

I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see,

That I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.

The endurance Jesus showed in going the distance against sin, death and the grave is the same he gives you and I. We will take some shots.

We will go down- but never out. That is because in Jesus Christ we have found that God is for us. Irrevocably.

May he give us hearts to believe.

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