Saturday, November 8, 2014


The other day I saw a pie chart representing what our recent graduates from St. Benedict's Prep were doing.
The vast proportion of the pie, thank goodness, was labeled "full time student." The next biggest segment was labeled "part time student." My understanding is that these latter are mostly guys who have to work in order to pay their tuition.

When a young alumnus stops by I naturally ask him what he's doing (he understands the code for "Are you in college?") Sometimes he'll say "I'm working part time and going to such-and-such college part time."  I respect these part-timers tremendously; that's got to take a lot of gumption to keep that up for years on end.


Last Wednesday, thouogh, I got a different take on part-timers. The Church presented us with the gospel passage Luke 14:25-33, that harsh saying that you have to hate your father and mother and turn your back on everything if you want to be a Christian. If we allow for Semitic figures of speech, especially exaggeration, we come to understand that Jesus is saying that he wants total commitment from us. Nothing in our lives is more important than God. He says someplace "No one can serve two masters."

No matter what our state in life, Jesus wants to be first in our lives, and wants us to carry the cross all the time. If your spouse or your kids are more important than God, then you won't be as good a spouse or parent as you could be if you had Christ working in you and through you.

Hoping to find some insights from the original Greek of ths passage, I got out my big fat Greek New Testament to check out the passage. Besides containing the Greek text and an English translation off to the side, this book is filled wth fifty years of marginal notes of my own, some of them copied from commentaries and some of them my personal reflections. When I opened to this passage I saw a note I'd written to myself a long time ago. It was this simple phrase: "Part-time Christians?"

"Part-time Christians" are the very people Jesus is addressing in this passage about needing to turn your back on mother and father and children: folks who spend only some (even if it's a large part) of their time and attention on being followers of Christ.

Imagine Jesus confronting someone with this question:
JESUS: Are you a follower of mine?
OTHER: Yes... part-time. Especially Sunday mornings, and at certain times during the week, too. I'm not the fanatical type, if you know what I mean."
The conversation follows the predictable pattern of one of my interviews with a young alumnus as Jesus continues:
JESUS: Part time? I see. And what do you do the rest of the time?
OTHER (to himself or herself): Wow, he's right! If I'm only a part-time follower, what DO I do with the other part of my life? 


What does a full-time Christian look like in action? The answer is found over and over in the gospels: in Jesus' parables and sermons, his sayings and actions. We all know what a full-time Christian looks like:
Full-timers love everyone, even their enemies, and are patient with the most obnoxious people in the office.
Full-timers keep up a running conversation with the Lord all day long, asking for help, thanking God for little favors, seeing everything as somehow a gift or a part of God's mysterious loving plan.
Full-timers always think of others first -- they're full-time lovers.
Full-timers know that they are not self-sufficient but realize that they depend on God for everything.
Full-timers have a realistic sense of their weaknesses and their strengths (true humility) and so are always striving to close the gap between their present self and the person that God had in mind when creating them. The description could go on for pages.

Frankly it seems to me that it's pretty easy to describe a full-time Christian. It's just difficult to act like one.

The Church encourages us by offering us models, people who gave themselves entirely to Christ while living everyday lives. Their example assures us that it can be done.


I wonder what the pie chart of full-time versus part-time Christians looks like? Hmm...

Even more telling, of course, is this question: What section of the pie chart am I in right now?

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