The word amateur has fallen on hard times in our day. For as long as I can remember it has been used to conjure up images of middle aged men hiding in basements playing with short wave radios. Amateurs hold conventions. People from all walks of life who love one specific thing or another (old stamps, vintage cars, homemade beer, baseball cards, or Japanese cartoons) gather together. Sadly, these associations have destroyed the reputation of amateurism, relegating its use to a narrow and decidedly dishonorable place. The word has been further ravaged by our culture’s desire for legitimacy. If you were to tell someone that you were an amateur botanist it would basically mean that you spend your free time doing something cute and that you started doing it when you read a book with ‘Idiot’s Guide to…’ in the title.
What this word is supposed to connote, however, is something beautiful.
I learned this from our resident scholar and wise guy, Greg Grooms, who
informed me that this word means ‘lover of…’, with its root word of
‘ama-’ love and suffix of ‘-teur’ which functions like an ‘er’ or ‘or’
ending in English (baker, doctor, farmer). It is meant to signify
someone who has a knowledge of something that isn’t derived purely by
formal training and isn’t for monetary gain. Instead it’s fueled by an
amateur’s love of that thing.
I think this word, though lost and scarred, helps us to understand the
true nature of what it looks like to be disciples of Christ. Notice the
parable Jesus tells from the book of Matthew at the top of this post.
The man in this passage is the epitome of amateur. First off, he’s a
merchant, a businessman. The surprising thing though, is that he isn’t
making the wisest business decisions…or life decisions either, for that
matter. He is less a professional and more a collector. He loves the
pearl even at the cost of his own life. He ‘…went and sold all that he
had and bought it.’ Notice that Jesus uses this parable to describe,
“the Kingdom of Heaven”. He is saying that this sort of love for
something- an amateur kind of love fueled by a passion and desire for
that thing- is what marks His Kingdom, His reign, His people, His (the
only true) way of life.
How are we to respond to words like this? If we’re honest, we haven’t
sold everything to know Christ. We aren’t amateur Jesus followers.
We’re amateurs of other things. Mostly we’re enraptured by our own
happiness, our own comfort and our own status. We are amateurs of this
world and our own desires.
In light of this reality, who is Jesus saying the pearl merchant is in
this passage? Clearly, Jesus is talking about himself. Remember, Jesus
is the one who left everything behind to redeem us, to buy us. He sold
all of His heavenly comfort, power, dignity, immanence and omnipotence
to buy his people from the ones who owned them: sin and Satan. He left
everything to come after us and redeem us…He is the greatest amateur
who ever lived.
If we are ever to be marked by this sort of love for God it can’t begin
with our own efforts to be amateur God followers. No, it is Christ’s
amateurish love for God and His creation that redeems us and that
causes us to become amateur Christians: those who love God freely with
a passion for who He is-those consumed with knowing and genuinely
loving God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because they were the object
of His amateurish love first.
Garrett and his wife Sara are leaving Austin and All Saints this summer to attend Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Garrett hopes to remain an amateur Christian, even while becoming a book-learned "professional."