The Tribe of the Transplanted
June 15, 2020
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Several years ago I had the privilege of attending the National Prayer Breakfast held annually at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The breakfast is a bipartisan gathering of leaders from all branches of government and both houses of Congress as well as delegations of leaders from foreign countries. The speaker that year was Bill Frist. Prior to his tenure in the U.S. Senate, Dr. Frist performed more than 150 heart transplants as a thoracic surgeon. During his remarks, he talked in reverent tones about the moment when a heart has been grafted into a new body and all the surgical team can do is wait in hopes that it will begin to beat. At that point he stopped speaking in medical terms and starting speaking in spiritual terms. He almost seemed at a loss for words as he described that miraculous moment when a heart beats in a new body for the first time. He called it a mystery.
Heart transplants are a marvel of modern medicine, but the heart goes way beyond what medicine can explain or understand. It is more than a physical pump. It doesn’t just circulate five quarts of blood through sixty thousand miles of blood vessels day in and day out. The heart has a mind of its own. Studies suggest that the heart secretes its own brain like hormones and has cellular memory. So a heart transplant isn’t just physical, it’s metaphysical. Heart transplant recipients don’t just receive a new organ, they receive cellular memories.
In his book A Man After His Own Heart, Charles Siebert shares a scientific yet poetic depiction of a heart transplant he observed at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in NewYork City. Not long after, Siebert attended an annual banquet for transplant recipients, and he was deeply moved by their profound appreciation for life. They spoke in reverent tones about the second chance at life they had been given.They humbly acknowledged their responsibility to honor the donors. And many of them talked about new desires that accompanied their new hearts.
Siebert concluded—and his research is backed up by numerous medical studies that transplant recipients don’t just receive a new heart. Along with that new heart, they receive whole new sensory responses, cravings, and habits.
Siebert called this group of heart recipients “the tribe of the transplanted.” I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Coup De Compassion
A life may be filled with lots of amazing moments, but nothing even begins to compare with that miraculous moment when you give your heart to Christ. That single decision sets off a spiritual chain reaction with infinite implications. A new child is adopted into the family of God. A new name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And an old heart is exchanged for a new heart.
When you give your heart to Christ, Christ gives His heart to you. And you become a part of the tribe of the transplanted. That new heart gives you a new appreciation for life. You humbly acknowledge your responsibility to honor the donor. And the cellular memories that come with that transplanted heart give you whole new sensory responses, cravings, and habits. You literally feel different. Why? Because you feel what Christ feels. And chief among those sanctified emotions is compassion. Your heart begins to break for the things that break the heart of God. And that is the heart of what it means to love God with all your heart.
It is a sad commentary and sadder irony that Christians are often viewed as heartless. And I think it’s because we’ve engaged our culture mind-first instead of heart-first. Let me explain. I believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, right down to the jot and tittle. That means that even word sequence is significant. And when Jesus reveals the four primal elements of love, the heart comes first. I’m afraid that theWestern church has tried to engage our culture mind-first instead of heart first. But minds often remain closed to truth until hearts have been opened by compassion.There is certainly a place for logical, left-brained explanations of faith. But compassion is the ultimate apologetic.There is no defense against it.
I’ve already detailed the perception problem that Christianity has. Now let me personalize the problem. The problem isn’t Christianity at large. The problem is you and me. The problem is that we’re not great at the Great Commandment. Or in terms of the heart, we’re not as compassionate as we could be or should be. That’s the bad news. But here’s the good news: Although you may be part of the problem, you can become part of the solution. You can change the face of Christianity, but it will require more than a face-lift. It starts with a change of heart.
Have you given your heart to Christ? All of it? If not, why not do it right here, right now? Stop reading and start praying. How? From your heart. God doesn’t just hear your words. He hears your heart. He isn’t impressed with words, but He is moved by a heartfelt prayer. And I promise you this: if you give your heart to Him, He’ll give His heart to you. And when He does, you’ll become part of this coup de compassion that started at the cross two thousand years ago. The compassion that Christ showed us at Calvary will become the driving force of your life.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.