Thursday, January 9, 2020

Passion and Love

There's a fine line between passion and love, but it's an extremely important one.

Passion drives us to fight for things. It makes us care about something to the very core of our bones. It comes to define who we are and what we're doing. It shapes our very lives. There were men in Jesus's day who were known for their passion - they were called the zealots - and in our world today, we have just as many of them. Men and women whose lives revolve around some core issue, something to which they have attached extreme importance.

But passion isn't limited to the zealots. Plenty of other persons were, and still are, passionate about things, but you might not call them zealots. Paul, for example, was extremely passionate about the faith. But we call him, and he calls himself, simply a Pharisee.

Paul's passion drove him to persecute anyone and anything that seemed to present an obstacle to the faith that he had known and loved, to the Jewish tradition and proud history. He devoted his entire life to protecting his story, the story of his people. And everyone knew it. Everyone knew who Paul was and what he stood for.

Then, something happened. Something changed. God took Paul's greatest passion...and transformed it into his deepest love (Acts 9).

How does that happen? How does passion get transformed into love?

It gets tendered.

You put a little flesh on it and you start to see it played out in the real world. Not just in the real world, but in real persons. In human beings. In skin just like yours. You see how what you believe in, or what you rally against, truly affects someone, and all of a sudden, it's not just some idea that you're holding's something more.

Paul saw how the Jewish story, continued through Jesus in a way he wasn't fully ready to admit, affected the real lives of the Jewish faithful. He saw its hope, its power, its promise in a way that all of his passion for tradition never could have shown him. He had the chance to first-hand experience that all he had ever fought for was actually changing lives...right now...right in front of him. And it transformed his passion for the faith into a love for the faithful.

That's how he became such a great preacher. Not because he was as passionate for Jesus as he had been passionate against Him, but because he developed a love for the very people whose story Jesus was going to change, to heal, to reconcile. Just by putting a little flesh on it.

And that's what we have to do. We have to keep putting flesh on our ideas. We have to keep writing real stories with them. Because we all have these things we're passionate about, these things that drive us. These things that we're willing to fight for and would do anything in this world to protect.

Without flesh on them, you see what they do - they run roughshod over others. They become measures of force. They become battle cries and rallying points and riots. They trample underfoot anyone and anything that gets in their way.

But put a little flesh on them, and they become something greater than passion or zeal or idealism or whatever. They become love. And the greatest of these is love.

I say this as someone who...who gets passion wrong sometimes. If you know me, you know that I am intensely passionate about the things I believe, especially about God. Especially about the Kingdom. Especially about human dignity as imagebearers. Especially, well, I guess about a lot of things. And my passion can rub persons the wrong way sometimes. They think I'm arrogant or foolish or naive, whatever. But if you get down into me, if you get deep down into me under the passion, it's all driven by love. I forget that sometimes, when I forget to keep flesh on it. When I forget to think about the real human beings involved, the real persons who this is affecting. But, like Paul, God continually transforms my greatest passion into my deepest love, and there are moments...more and more of them every day, when I get love right. And those are the best.

I don't know what my point in all of that is. Just a little personal reflection, I suppose. But it's important. It matters. Passion is good, but love is better.

Let's shoot for love. 

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