A New Beat

Our lives are guided by a variety of narratives and daily practices, “beats” if you will, that we hold on to. We learn to define and make sense of our own selves and the world with these beats that propel us toward who we ultimately become. In the Beatitudes, we are given a vision of the radically abundant life Jesus came to give. Jesus reimagines human life by offering a new set of “beats” for his followers to step into:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
 for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These nine beats of Jesus invite us toward rhythms of justice, self-sacrifice, radical love, truth, redemption, and freedom intended to transform the world.

However, in our personal realities, we are exposed to antithetical beats and narratives every single day. James K. A. Smith in his book, Desiring the Kingdom, says “…the habits and practices that we are regularly immersed in are actually thick formative practices that over time embed in us desires for a particular vision for the good life.” Smith says that as human beings we worship what we desire, and what we do shapes who we become. He asserts the need for us to examine the societal “liturgies” (or cultural “beats”) around us because there are no such things as neutral habits or practices. The cultural narratives and secular liturgies we participate in hold either life-giving or destructive implications.

For some of us, we have been shaped by cultural beats that emphasize scarcity or entitlement. Many of us have carried beats characterized by fear and anxiety, duplicity and deception, pride or judgment. These narratives come conjointly with practices that justify their existence, reinforce their priorities, and consequently infuse their own version of the good life (which, more often than not, are at odds with the Kingdom beats of Jesus). Dallas Willard says, “Everyone receives a spiritual formation, just as everyone gets an education. The only question is whether it is a good one or a bad one.” The character formation each person receives throughout his or her life carries eternal significance.

In order to break from the habits that have become deeply embedded into our formation, we need to be disrupted. Disrupted from the very things that numb us toward a slow death. The longer we choose our cultural beats as our main reality, we will forget that we have been created and made to live life to the full.

The nine beats expressed in the Beatitudes offer a new way of living- the ability to enter into his Kingdom narrative, shaped and held together by the abundant life Jesus promises to the people who choose to follow him. With each statement, Jesus uncovers the realities that will bring us true life, the fullest life: the way of trust, lament, humility, justice, compassion, right motive, peace-making, radical love, and surrender. In the Beatitudes, we find Jesus’ call to an upside down kingdom. The call to hold in tension the already and not yet. The call to embrace the realities of a broken world and a redeeming God. The invitation to a new beat.

Christine Suh