Friday, April 22, 2016

You Are What You Love

I don’t often try to spend my time in venues like the Breeze doing book reports, but there is a particular book that has caught my attention lately, because its thesis, which is stated in the title, has caused me to stop and think. That book is entitled You Are What You Love and it is written by James K.A. Smith at Calvin Theological Seminary. I have not finished the book, but the concepts of the book have been marinating in the back of my mind like the chicken tenderloins are marinating in Italian dressing or garlic parmesan sauce until I put them on the grill this evening.

The thesis of the book is that our lives are defined less by our ideas and our stated values, and informed more by what captures our heart. That is why the Proverbs tell us to “guard your heart, because everything else flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). It is why Jesus invites some of his disciples to follow him in the gospel of John by asking them, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). It is also why when Jesus seeks to reinstate Peter as an apostle after his betrayal of Christ before his crucifixion he does not ask Peter if he has figured out what he has done wrong, he asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”
James Smith puts it this way, “discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing” (p. 2).

Of course, discipleship is a matter of both loving God with our whole hearts and our whole minds, but we can often forget the primacy of the heart. We can describe conversion and the life of faith in a way that speaks more to what we intellectually assent to that what we give our lives to. And when we reduce faith in Jesus to agreeing to a good idea, we miss the message of faith. Because, as was stated earlier, we are what we love.

The author then goes on to say that our loves, wants and affections are formed and informed by our habits. In other words, we can say all sorts of things, but our life’s habits reflect what we really love and what we really worship. Furthermore, a large part of apprenticing ourselves to Jesus is taking upon ourselves habits that, as they are practiced and become integrated in our lives, begin to re-form our hearts and lives, and reorient ourselves toward seeking God, his kingdom, and his righteousness.

A big part of the reason why we gather for worship on Sunday mornings is that we are forming the habit of worship, which in turn orients our hearts toward reflecting our professed love of Christ. We sing in worship because singing engages the body and the emotions. Our radios are full of love songs to romantic interests. Our worship is full of love songs to a Savior who loved us enough to die for us in order to set us free from sin and death, and make us alive to serve and love Christ for eternity.

Last week, as we dialogued about the direction of our church at the Board of Trustees meeting. We discussed that we had an adequate mission—making fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ—but we had yet to set objectives and to gain enough specificity in the nuts and bolts of how to fully implement that mission. In other words, we have a lot of good ideas about where we are going, but we have yet to form intention and habits on how we are going to specifically work together to get where we need to be as a church. We need to continue form habits as a congregation that are going to empower us to be more hospitable and invitational, more passionate about knowing and living the good news, and more oriented toward seeking the good of our community. We have got some good starts in this direction, but we must keep pressing on until our mission and vision become our second nature—our habit.

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