You are what you love: is the church just for intellectuals?


Co-founder of Rhythm of Life

In the last month a diverse small group of friends are journeying through the book “You are what you Love” by James KA Smith. What follows is a short reflection from our small band of South African readers (with more to follow). One of the gifts from our book discussion has been the multiracial interactions. In the first Chapter JKAS sketches a picture of humans as not primarily thinkers but lovers. Our friend Kutloano mentioned that for many poor people churches have become difficult places of privilege where those who are able to articulate themselves (by speaking well) are favored. He noted that it is freeing to imagine communities where people are seen through the lens of being lovers. In a country where we can easily confuse book learning for wisdom it gives a different lens to evaluate from. Here is a quote from the book,

What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we started from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers? What if you are defined not by what you know but by what you desire? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the gut-level regions of the heart? How would that change our approach (p.7)


Viewing people as lovers can level the playing field in a country wherein certain styles of intellectualizing has been afforded through the systemic oppression of other(s). When we view people as lovers – it can become a dignified way to see all people. This reminds us of Paul’s warning that communities should consist of edifying love instead of knowledge exhibitions that puff up.  Paul explains this,

This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, she is known by God.