When Christians stop being passionate about living the Christian life and sharing the love of a passionate Savior, our relationship with God will grow cold and distant and we will stop attracting others to our faith.
Then he turned to the husband and said, “There, that’s all she needs about three times a week.” The man replied, “But I can only bring her in on Thursdays.”
One quality that’s absent from many people’s lives is passion. In a marriage, passion can be the coal that keeps the fire burning. Without it, the relationship can grow cold and distant. In a job, passion for success can drive an employee to do more than is expected, yielding promotions. In physical fitness, passion pushes athletes to keep their eyes fixed on the finish line, even when they are near exhaustion.
Passion is a powerful emotion that has the potential to push us toward goals pleasing to God. But misplaced passion can also lead to an empty, directionless life filled with sin.
The prophet Hosea prophesied against Israel: “Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire” (Hos 7:6). The passion described by the prophet was sinful passion.
Passion, therefore, is a neutral emotion. It is like anger. Its goodness or badness is in the way it is used. Passion can propel an individual to be very selfish, but channeled and guided, passion can be a great and important aspect of successful living.
Richard Stone wrote that “passion in the presence of love becomes holy, that is whole and divine, the living spiritual energy that creates …. Passion in the absence of love becomes an addiction.”
We see holy passion in the life of Jesus. The last week of his life is called the “Passion of Jesus.” The word denotes his intense desire to do the will of God through his suffering. Though he had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that he would not have to suffer, he was willing to suffer (to be passionate) in order to save the world from sin. This passion showed his love for the world.
Judas’ passion, on the other hand, focused on selfish motives. Judas had a passion for money. He was the treasurer for the disciples and at times helped himself to the collection. He betrayed Jesus to the Romans for 30 pieces of silver. Judas’ passion for self-advancement over the desires of Jesus led him to suicidal despair.
It is interesting that before the Apostle Paul was converted to Christianity, he was a very passionate man, but he was very passionate about persecuting the Christian church. He had permission from the high priest to find Christians in Jerusalem and those who had fled from Jerusalem and have them flogged or killed. After his conversion, Paul continued to be a very passionate man, but his passion was redirected by God and used for God’s glory.
Paul wrote to the Romans, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Rom 12:11). This might be the church’s greatest weakness: our lack of zeal and spiritual fervor. We become complacent and comfortable.
We are sometimes like the man in Briscoe’s joke. We think it’s someone else’s job to show passion and it’s just our job to show up. When Christians stop being passionate about living the Christian life and sharing the love of a passionate Savior, our relationship with God will grow cold and distant and we will stop attracting others to our faith.
The Evil One works to develop within us passions that lead us away from the Kingdom of God. And if Satan is unsuccessful at redirecting our passions, he will settle for Christians with little or no passion for laying up treasure in heaven through good works on earth.
A passionless Christian has never changed the world and never will.
Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column first appeared in The Moultrie Observer.
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.