July 24, 2007

Over the years I have reflected a lot on "compassion."  But I have shied away from "passion" like a colt jumping at a shadow.  Passion exudes intensity of emotion that drives your feelings or convictions.  It can overpower and master you for good or ill, for the passion of love that not only runs hot when young but sustains through thirty-three years of marriage or for anger unchecked that strikes out or hurts another.

John Ortberg observes in his book, The Life You've Always Wanted, that the quest for balance in life is overrated.  He says it "lacks the call to sacrifice and self-denial ? the wild, risky, costly, adventurous abandon of following Jesus" (192).  In the past I predicted that I would never be well known because I was too much in balance to really make a difference in the world.

Is this attitude on target with my call from Jesus?  Do I keep my "passion" in check to such an extent that I will never realize all that Jesus asks of me?

Of course, I have strong convictions that I hold passionately (at least for me).  And I can get "passionate" about a soccer match or the LA Dodgers or golf or the latest Harry Potter book or our grandchildren.  But am I limiting myself by keeping so many of my beliefs in the background and not letting them escape to impact the world or the community?

I heard a preacher full of passion recently and had to ponder why I have never been able to preach that way.  He said he would step on some toes (and he probably did, although not as much as he might have reckoned because he did not know the congregation as well as he thought).  His text and thesis were biblical and correct, things I have always sought after, and he said them with conviction and passion.  I have spoken out of conviction, but was it "passion"?

Jesus said in John 4:34, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."  The word "food" denotes an essential, a requirement, a necessity.  It could also point to Jesus' passion.

In Jeremiah's day the prophet noted that the Israelites had "gone after" other gods.  They had shifted their passion for the Lord to other deities.  Israel hated Jeremiah for pointing out their iniquities, their infidelities, their misdirected passions.  They attacked the prophet with derision and bodily harm, spitting on him and abusing him through punishment that criminals deserved.  When Jeremiah tried to cease prophesying the words of the Lord became a raging fire inside him, too strong to hold in, like a mighty warrior going forth to battle (Jer 20).  His passions came out even when he attempted to control them. 

Passion takes on many guises.  The passionate preacher can substitute truth with passion.  Like the note in a preacher's manuscript that said, "Lacks content; pound pulpit harder."  Passion also can hide other emotions, such as anger.  If used without care and grace, it can lead to spiritual abuse, demanding behaviors with passion but without a proper foundation, like a speaker not discerning a church's history and spirit, or a living out of the speaker's own problems or issues, projected on a church.

I want to align myself with Jesus' passion -- to do the Father's will and to complete his work.  That work remains since Jesus asked us to continue it.  My passion needs to be the same: "Thy Kingdom come."  I should reflect more on what passion means to my ministry and how it permeates everything I am, do, and say.  Perhaps another occasion for a blog entry.