You’ve seen art lovers. They go to museums on their time off. They buy paintings for their home and office.
You’ve seen sports lovers. They watch every college game on the weekend. They buy racquets and equipment and hit the courts three nights a week. They play hoops with other aging bodies even when it hurts.
You’ve seen food lovers. They take cooking classes. They purchase the best utensils for their kitchen. The art lover sees their presentation which resembles a masterpiece and asks to buy it for their home or office.
You know the principle even if you have never stated it: you are what you love. Each one of us becomes something that we love. And we are first what we want.
So says James Smith in his book, You are What You Love. Makes sense, doesn’t it? People know Jay Leno loves cars because Jay Leno owns around 286 vehicles. And people know you by what you love. And they know what you love because you have ordered your life around what you want.
That’s why Jesus asks the disciples who are following him, “What do you want?” He doesn’t ask “What do you believe?” or “What do you know?” Jesus wants to know “What do you want?” This is an important question—maybe “the” question—because as Smith writes, “You are what you love because you live toward what you want.”
The problem we face is that in following Jesus we often find we have wanted something other than him first. And so we have lived towards those things that occupy a higher place in our lives. We need our wants to be transformed.
It’s possible. One way we try to do this is by learning. We study. We attend Bible class, worship and hear sermons, we take online studies and read the Bible more and read more books. There’s nothing wrong with learning. At its basic definition a “learner” is what a “disciple” is: someone who learns to live the life Jesus would live if he were in our shoes.
What we often miss in our era is we think learning has to do with only the brain. So we try to cram more knowledge in it. And then we learn that Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “love” and we realize we have not become good at loving.
Biblical learning goes past head knowledge alone. Knowledge has a sidekick named Behavior. Classically, behavior can be formed in two ways. The first is imitation. Our culture values originality but the Bible values imitation. Jesus said “follow me.” Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
Want to learn to love? Find people who love God well and love people well and spend time with them. Watch them. Ask questions. Invite input. Imitate them as they imitate God.
Then practice. Move what you are learning to your behavior. We listen to a virtuoso violinist and we marvel at how fluidly and flawlessly she plays. But what we don’t see is that because she loves the sound a violin makes she has spent hours and hours practicing. The Apostle Paul says our practice takes place in Christian worship. It happens when the church assembles for worship of God. And it happens when the church assembled dismisses into the world.
Jesus asked those disciples “What do you want?” They didn’t really know so they followed him. And what they saw they imitated. What Jesus did they practiced. Things they thought they wanted most they learned they needed least. What they wanted most was God. And so they learned to love him first.
This year may you love God first. Imitate God lovers you can find. Practice.
Before long people will look at you and say “That person is a God lover.”
Question: How well are you known as a “God Lover?” Who will you imitate and how will you practice this year?