Stop Loving People, Part 5

This article is the fifth installment of a series entitled Stop Loving People by Josh Dyson. Part 5 continues from the last article posted here.

Solution #2: Word and Sacrament

Hebrews 10.24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” James K. A. Smith says, “The church—the body of Christ—is the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and retrain our appetites.”[1] He goes on to say later in the same chapter “Worship is the arena in which God recalibrates our hearts, reforms our desires, and rehabituates our loves. Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us.”[2] We absolutely cannot neglect the church. This is where the real action is. Certainly the church is broken and often distracted from its most fundamental mission, but we cannot give up on her. She is us. To give up on her is to give up on ourselves and to abandon God’s sovereignly ordained plan for this world.

Solution #3: Repentance and prayer

In his book For Self Examination Søren Kierkegaard comments on the story of the Good Samaritan, delving further into the question, “Who is your Neighbor?” He challenges us to sit in the place of the priest and the Levite rather than to assume that we are the Good Samaritan in the story. He says, “When you read God’s Word, in everything you read, continually to say to yourself: it is I to whom it is speaking, it is I about whom it is speaking…” He continues regarding the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan, “You are not to say, ‘It is not I: after all, it was a priest, and I am not a priest; I do, however, find it admirable of the Gospel to have it be a priest, because the priests are the worst of all.’ No, when you read God’s Word, it must be in earnest and you must say to yourself, ‘This priest is I myself….’”[3] You are the Priest and the Levite!

James K. A. Smith says, “If we, as educators, are going to be part of a classical project of education that seeks to form the whole person, to apprentice students to a love for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful as revealed to us in Christ, then we need to be reformed and transformed. Educational reform, you might say, begins with us.[4] He goes on to say on the following page, “Similarly, if I am going to be a teacher of virtue, I need to be a virtuous teacher.[5] Likewise, if we want our students, children or friends to be repentant, we must be repentant ourselves.

Solution #4: Fake it until you make it

James K. A. Smith says, “…there is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive.”[6] C. S. Lewis discuss the nature of virtue formation in his most famous apologetic book Mere Christianity:

“But though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings…. Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”[7]

He continues:

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”[8]

[1] You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith, p. 65.

[2] You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith, p. 77.

[3] Most of this last paragraph is taken directly from part 1 of this series: https://theclassicalthistle.com/2017/05/12/stop-loving-people-part-1/.

[4] You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith, p. 160.

[5] You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith, p. 161.

[6] You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith, p. 80.

[7] Mere Christianity, C .S. Lewis, Book 3, chapter 9.

[8] Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, Book 3, chapter 9.

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