Both Sides of Passion

I have been thinking recently about the word passion. Passion. What a great word. It is such a strong sounding word, full of a wide spectrum of meanings. What do you think of when you hear that word? It could be anything from the story of Jesus to a piece of classical music. But what you probably think of first is what most people think of: very strong feelings, emotions, or desires.

If you look up passion in the dictionary, you will in fact find that it means strong emotion. But if you look down in the fine print (if it’s there), you’ll find that it comes from the Latin root word pati which means “suffer.” That sounds about right doesn’t it? Strong emotions are often the cause of great suffering! Someone once told me that the definition of passion is not what you like strongly, but what you will suffer for. I like that definition.

Are you a passionate person? What are you passionate about? Most people would say it’s a good thing to be considered a passionate person. Interestingly, the Bible uses the word passion mostly in a negative way, describing the desires of our sinful nature. In Colossians chapter 3 Paul lists several things we need to get rid of and several things we need to “put on” as followers of Christ. He lists passion as something we are to put to death (with impurity and idolatry also on the list). Here I think he is talking about bad passion (the kind that is uncontrollable, one we give in to without question), but the two lists in this passage got me thinking about how I view my life in Christ and apart from him. Let me explain…

I tend to think of the sins that I battle (mainly the ones on the list -impurity, greed, anger, pride, etc) as being very strong and forceful. That is what makes them passions, right? But the converse is not always true in my mind. When I think about love, compassion, mercy and love for others, they don’t have the same force of meaning to me in the sense that they are often distant, cerebral, even boring principles or practices. This is where I need a course correction.

It isn’t as though all sins and evil is passionate and full of fun, we just have a tendency to view them that way. While there are certainly ungodly passions to avoid, I believe there are godly passions that we need to stir up within ourselves. Anger, jealousy and lust fly out of me like water from a fire hydrant, so why don’t love, joy, compassion and mercy? Maybe those things can be as forceful, if not more forceful, than the negative stuff that comes out of me. Maybe someday they will by God’s grace.

So think about it. Pursue a passion for God and his ways, and don’t let the bad parts of you have all the fun.


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