“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” [Lk 10:27]
I’ve never done anything by halves. From the time I was a child, I was an “all or nothing” kid. I’ve just always believed in giving my best to everything and that if you couldn’t give your best, it would be better to give nothing. Even after I got married, my husband would joke around with me because of this “all or nothing” trait in me. Having an “all or nothing” attitude can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing if you decide that you’re going to put your “all” into wrong choices, wrong paths, and wrong habits, as I often did when I was younger. When I was good, I was good, but when I was bad, I was bad!
St. Therese of Lisieux was also an “all or nothing” person. In her autobiography, she writes of an incident that took place when she was a little girl. Her older sister Leonie, deciding that she was too old to play with dolls any more, approached her younger sisters, Celine and Therese, with a basket. The basket was filled with doll dresses and little bits of curiosities, with Leonie’s doll lying on top of the heap. Leonie invited Celine and Therese to choose for themselves whatever they wanted from her basket of goodies. Celine examined everything and then chose a ball of silk braid. After examining the contents of the basket herself, Therese then made her choice. “I choose everything,” and then she proceeded to walk away with the basket, doll and all, without any further thought.
St. Therese believed that this “all or nothing” trait of her childhood characterizes what type of person she would be for the rest of her life and how she would give herself to Jesus. As she grew older and began to think seriously about spiritual perfection, she realized that in order to become a true Saint, one must be willing to do three things: (1) suffer much; (2) completely forget about oneself much; and (3) sacrifice much.
Because we are free to choose just how much we will suffer for Jesus, empty ourselves out for Jesus, and sacrifice for Jesus, not everyone is going to love him with the same intensity. The choice to do these things for Jesus is ours to make; He will not force us to do them. Some people choose only to go halfway, while others choose to go all the way. The Church is filled with men and women who are at different levels in their spiritual journey with God. Some are achieving spiritual maturity, while others are still struggling at the starting point.
Jesus doesn’t want any of us to love Him in halves. According to the above-referenced verse of Scripture, God wants all of us, not just part of us. The one who suffers much, makes sacrifices much, and empties himself out much, does so because he loves Jesus much. But the one who suffers little, sacrifices little, and empties himself out little does so because he only loves Jesus little.
Too many Christians today are choosing to serve Jesus by halves, giving to Him only what is convenient for them to part with instead of what He is requiring them to give. To be a genuine follower of Christ, we must allow God to change us within and without, and this causes much suffering. We must be willing to die a thousand deaths a day when it comes to doing the will of God. Loving Jesus is not just expressed in weekly or daily attendance at Mass. An atheist could walk into a church, sit in a pew, and do the same, could he not? Our love for Jesus is expressed in the intensity with which we are willing to suffer for Him, empty ourselves out for Him, and sacrifice for Him. Unfortunately, this is where too many Christians draw the line.
As a religious instructor, the people who get the most offended at my teachings are those who don’t want to go all the way with Christ. They’ve made up their minds just how far they’ll go in their service to God and their worship of Him. When the Holy Spirit raises up individuals in their lives to challenge them and show them that they are only serving God by halves, they take offense, reject the message, and conclude that the messenger has the problem and not them. They conclude that the messenger is judging them, not realizing that it is God’s Word which is judging them, not the messenger who is teaching that Word. These people don’t want to pray, read the Bible, or study the Catechism on their own. They don’t want to give up their television time in order to do a good deed for someone else. They just want to go to Mass and give themselves over to earthly things all week long and hope that in the end, that will be good enough for God.
Truth be told, I’m not really sure if “halfway disciples” will even make it to Heaven. Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” [Mt. 10:37-39]. It seems to me that Jesus is teaching that if you want to go to Heaven, it’s all or nothing. I don’t see halfway anywhere in the words of Our Lord, do you? People say they love Jesus all of the time, but how are they defining their “love?” Weekly church attendance? A buck or two placed in the offering plate? If a man loves his TV time more than he loves spending time with Jesus in prayer, how can he say that he loves Jesus more than anything? If a woman loves reading her romance novels more than she loves reading the Word of God, how can she say that Christ is first in her life?
Our love for God is expressed in just how much we are willing to suffer for Him, sacrifice for Him, and be completely emptied out for Him. It’s as simple as that. There is no in-between, brothers and sisters. If we refuse to suffer for Christ, sacrifice for Christ, or be completely emptied out for Christ, then we are giving Him what we want, and not what He demands. Since when has God ever accepted this? To believe that He does accept this is to be deceived.
From what I’ve read in the Bible, Jesus hates anything that’s halfway. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus was addressing a church filled with lukewarm people. To this group of people, Jesus said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth!” [Rev 3:15-16].
To be a “halfway” Christian is to be a lukewarm Christian – something that Christ detests. Jesus wants all or nothing, brothers and sisters. When the Son of God says that He is about to spit those “followers” who are halfway/lukewarm out of His mouth, this doesn’t sound like they are going to receive a lesser place in Heaven. It seems to me that for people like this, there will be no place in Heaven.
We all would do well to examine ourselves to see just how much we really do love Jesus and how we are expressing that love for Him. Are we expressing it in the manner that we think is acceptable or in the manner that He requires? To the extent that we are suffering for Jesus, sacrificing for Jesus, and completely emptying ourselves out for Jesus…
…is the extent that we truly love Jesus.
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