Where you invest your love, you invest your life. - “Awake My Soul,” Mumford and Sons
You can tell a lot about a person by identifying what they love. And you can identify what they love by listening to what they talk about.
Does someone spend a lot of time talking about money? Entertainment? CrossFit? Chances are you’ve stumbled upon what they love.
What we love not only determines our preferred conversation topics, it also shapes the way we inhabit the world. It directs our energies and efforts toward achieving the so-called “good life” according to what we believe gives life ultimate significance.
This is because, as human beings, our vision of the “good life” doesn’t simply come from our heads, the result of what we think. Rather, it comes primarily from our hearts, because we are directed by (and towards) what we love.
As James K.A. Smith puts in in Desiring the Kingdom,:
It’s not what I think that shapes my life from the bottom up; it’s what I desire, what I love, that animates my passion. To be human is to be the kind of creature who is oriented by this kind of primal, ultimate love - even if we never really reflect on it.
That last part is where we often get into trouble: we don’t reflect. We feel our way into and around the world, chasing after visions of what we imagine “the good life” to be. Yet we often don’t realize how our (disordered) loves (mis)direct our lives.
How our disordered loves can misdirect our life in Christ.
This Sunday, we see a young man come to Jesus. We read that he has great wealth and many possessions. And this isn’t so bad…except that the Gospel tells us that he loves them. He loves his stuff too much.
This love shapes the way he lives and affects how and why he approaches Christ.
When he comes to Christ, he says, “Good teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” For this man, the eternal life Christ offers is just one more possession that he desires.
It’s just more stuff he can have.
The “good” he desires is wealth, not Christ, and the Lord’s incisive question, “Why do you call Me ‘good?’” should cause the man to pause. Christ further challenges the man’s heart when he continues that eternal life is not something that is owned, but rather is something to be entered into. Eternal life is a world to inhabit, not a “good” to possess.
When Christ finally tells the man to sell everything and give it all to the poor, he can’t deal with it. The “good life” Christ offers is not the life the young man actually wants and loves.
And so he leaves dejected. Defeated.
The young man was not only attached to his stuff; he had been formed by it. Perhaps his vision of eternity was simply never-ending enjoyment of all that stuff, a materialistic view of salvation that we all can slip into. His belongings had come so close to his heart that they actually merged with it, making it impossible for him to both have his stuff and cleave his heart to Christ. He couldn’t imagine life (much less, eternal life) without that wealth.
Because of his love of wealth, his worship of possessions, this young man had no capacity to worship the true “Good One.”
In this reading, Christ makes it clear that following Him comes at a great cost. We cannot serve two masters, He tells us in the Gospels, for we will always love one, and hate the other. For Christ, following Him is all about what (or Who) we love.
So what do we love?
It’s very tempting simply to say, “The Lord! I love the Lord!” After all, I believe Christ is Lord. And I think that His Kingdom is coming. But what fruit has that love borne in my life?
If it’s true that our loves shape and orient our lives, then perhaps the best way to determine what I love is to examine how I live.
Sure, I go to Church on Sundays, and I read a lot of books about Jesus and the Church, but do I sit with Him in silence? Do I read His words in the Scriptures to hear about His savings works, and what He has in store for me? Do I really care about what He says, or would I just rather keep Him and His teachings at a safe distance, treating Him and them as “good ideas.”
Because that’s what I love. Ideas.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love the Lord but sometimes I wonder if my love for Him is similar to my love for a good book. Do I love Him because He makes me think, because He satisfies a need and makes me feel good? Or do I love Him even when He confronts me in my disordered loves, asking me to leave them behind and to follow Him?
Like the young man in the Gospel reading, I call the Lord “good.” But do I say so because I think He is good on His terms, or because I think He’s good on my terms?
The Lord is always calling us to detach from inordinate loves in order to cling to Love Himself, because, while it’s true that what we love shapes what we do, it is equally true that what we do shapes what we love. He wants us to know Him, and He wants to know us. And as we come to know Him in prayer, in the Scriptures, and in His Church, what we love will change.
We will love Him for Who He is, not what we would have Him be.
So this week I’m going to do some hard work. Instead of reading about Christ, I’m going to listen to Him. Instead of talking about Him like an idea, I’m going to receive Him as the Word of God. Instead of obsessing over a lesser vision of the “good life,” I will meditate on His vision of eternal life in the Kingdom. Because as I come to know Him in this way, I’ll find that there really is no better one than the Good One, and He’s the Love worth pursuing for the rest of my life.
 James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), p. 51, emphasis mine.
CrossFit Meme: DIYLOL
Money: NickNguyen via Compfight cc
Jesus: MichaelHDJ via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
For more on deepening our love for Christ, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
For more on relating with God, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
For an enjoyable (and possibly inspirational) musical experience, check out "Awake My Soul" by Mumford and Sons: