Sunday School - 9:30 a.m.
Worship Service - 10:45 a.m.
Evening Bible Study - 6:00 p.m.


X Close Menu

The Passion of the Church

Passion blog

A desire fueled by passion will bring about the greatest results that you can produce in this life on your own. I like to play guitar, but I don’t have the determination to push myself through bloody fingers and untold hours of constant practice. That’s why I’m not as good as I could be. I don’t have a passion for it - for me, it is simply a tool for ministry. Passion can push you through difficult times because you don’t care what it takes to become better. We all have the ability to create whatever kind of life we want, to an extent. The world will tell you that the secret to “living the dream” is hidden in our passions and what we do because of them. Yet in my experience, success comes from obedience far more than passion if you are a believer - after all, I had a passion for education for 20 years and got nowhere with earning a bachelor’s degree - God calls me into ministry and inside of 3 years I get a masters. 

The point here is that there are some things that the world, honestly, does not understand at all. I like the idea that if you apply passion to something then you will find success, but that really isn’t how it works. I think we all know that there are things in this life - no matter how much we want them or how hard we try, they may just not be in the cards for us. For instance, I cannot draw or paint. When it comes to visual arts, no matter how much I want to be good, I simply do not have the gift for it. Somehow my kids both do, but not me. No matter my passion, God has given me the gifts to do some things, and not so much with other things, and that is reality.

Passion is an interesting thing. When I think about that word, I think about what pop culture has told me about its meaning. Extreme, unstoppable drive to achieve, or extreme, unstoppable lust for a person. Honestly, neither of those definitions is particularly healthy, and neither of them is correct based on what the word really means.

I wondered, like many, why Mel Gibson’s movie was called the Passion of the Christ. I wonder why this part of John that we are about to begin studying is called the Passion Narrative. Where in the definitions of the word passion do we find a way to apply that word to this event?

The English word has its roots in the Latin passio, which means, simply, “suffering.” Its first recorded use is in early Latin translations of the Bible that appeared in the 2nd century A.D. and that describe the death of Jesus. The Latin word was used often in Old English religious texts, where its meaning remained exclusively theological. But when the Normans invaded Britain in the middle of the 11th century, their conquest infused thousands of French words—including passion, which also referred solely to the sufferings of Jesus—into the spoken language. The record is sketchy, but it seems that once passion was in use in both languages, it began to develop broader meanings. The first new senses in English referred to martyrdom and physical suffering or affliction, and by the 13th century, passion was being used to refer to any strong emotion.

The first sexual usage is attributed to William Shakespeare, who wrote, in Titus Andronicus, “My sword … shall … plead my passions for Lavinia’s love.” It wasn’t a great leap from Shakespeare to the entirely modern senses of passion, which developed, with his and others’ help, over the next few decades. We lost the true meaning of the word, and we began to use it in a totally different way.

Passion, when we consider its multiple meanings today, should leave Christians with a dual understanding that helps us to understand the mission to which we have been called. And since we are moving into the Passion story in John, I believe it is worth investigating first what Passion should mean in our own lives as we live in obedience to His call.

Mel Gibson’s movie gave us a decent understanding of a healthy spiritual view of the meaning of passion. For Jesus, here was a love, a passion for a lost world which led to a willingness to sacrifice His own personal desires and even die for the sake of the nations. So defining Passion as intense desire is not entirely wrong - Jesus’ passion to save the lost came before everything, including His own life. His passion was the thing in life that to Him was worth suffering and dying for - and we see it both in His compassion for us and in His obedience to the Father. Philippians 2:7-8 says “made Himself nothing, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

If we look at 1 Peter chapter 2, we read the following:

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed

Let me repeat verse 21 so that we do not miss this - “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” We are called to a passion - a thing in life which to each of us is worth suffering and dying for. We are called to this as followers of Christ’s example - a willingness to give up everything, including our lives - for Christ alone.

That is a harsh reality. That is seemingly pretty extreme, all things considered. Yet, we see this throughout history - followers of Christ who have lived according to that very passion. Each of the apostles lived for no purpose other than to spread the gospel, doing so under persecution and eventual execution in horrible ways - all for this passion. Consider Paul - What is it that drove Paul to see the gospel as relevant to all peoples and cultures, to persist in his missionary journeys despite being arrested, beaten, and even stoned?Why would he suffer deprivation, hunger, exposure, persecution, and injustice without ever being deterred as God’s witness?Was it only because of obedience to that encounter on the road to Damascus? Or was he driven by a passion for the mission of God, to see the lost come into the Kingdom of God?

I have mentioned recently that God has been placing on my heart a concern for missions. As we have been taking up the Lottie Moon offering, I am going to be completely transparent with you. I have, week after week, become more and more dissatisfied with what we and most other churches in the SBC are doing about missions. We have managed to take away the sacrifice - the passion to reach the lost by giving our money to support a cause that is honestly completely separated from our church experience. I don’t like it, and I have been praying about it for several weeks. I feel that the church, and perhaps the SBC in particular, has lost the urgency of God’s mission - both local and abroad. The largest Christian denomination in America has lost its passion, all of its member churches along with it.

Do you know what the mission of God is? As it is, we do not often think of a sovereign God who is “on mission” even though we firmly believe that, contrary to Calvinistic belief, all people have the ability to choose to follow God. We are so adamant about believing in that free will, yet what are we doing as a church to spread the word? The truth is that the mission of God was not the fulfillment of the work of Jesus - the mission of God was born in the heart of God before the creation of the world. The Passion of God has been around for longer than you and I have.

Our church specifically has taken a year with a strong inward focus - something that we needed in order to begin the healing process after big changes. The time has come for the focus of our church to return to its purpose - our calling as the body of Christ. We are called to Go and Make Disciples of All Nations - this includes Bevier. We talk and pray and wonder what we can do to make people come to our church - it is time to stop waiting for them to come, and for us to GO. We need to start remembering why we are here, and reprioritize what our ministries are about - making the main thing the MAIN THING. What do you think?