Until I entered high school, I have never heard this word used (and misused) so many times before. While it’s true that we all want to be viewed as someone who is “passionate”, I’m beginning to see that either 1)”Passion” isn’t necessarily the correct term, or 2) we’ve excessively used and romanticized the word, that it’s turned into a cliche and lost its meaning on us. This was first brought to my attention when I read Francis Chan’s Forgotten God. On the subject of the two extremes of the “Holy Spirit spectrum”, he distinguishes someone ACTUALLY FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT with someone who is merely just passionate. And rightly so, he immediately points out way we’ve viewed someone who’s passionate as just someone with a lot of emotion and feelings for a certain matter. While that’s a fairly accurate description of someone with passion, someone with a lot of energy and drive, what I think we’ve grown passive to is where the passion comes from. Think of the most passionate people you know, it’s easy to tell by just looking at them that they are no doubt passionate people. What I want to know is if there is any substance at all beneath the surface, because in all honesty, perhaps that’s why sometimes I’m turned off by “passionate” people. I see the outward passion, and I applaud them for putting their heart on their sleeves, but most of the time the rest of their character appears very shallow.
As we continued to study the book of James in my small group, I can’t help but see how James really isn’t kidding about all the things he addresses. These are some ridiculously strong words/statements/accusations. It’s a lot to digest, but if I’m going to take him at his words, I have to seriously clean up my act. Reading Chapter 4 this morning, I was taken aback by how the word “passion” is used in a negative connotation.
…You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions…(James 4:3 ESV)
Often times my mind stops processing after James tells us we ask with the wrong heart. I know in other versions the word “passion” is translated as “pleasures”. It was easier to swallow these words then; when we didn’t dig into what it meant to ask with the wrong heart. It was easier to think to myself “Wanting what will only pleasure me is a ‘no-no'”. But looking at it now, why did the translators use passion? Ouch. Perhaps sometimes our passions are merely just that, things we chase after for pleasure. Some people claim that they are passionate about helping others, but sometimes I wonder if what they’re truly “passionate” about is just feeling better than others, because in theory, they appear to be the better person. How many of us subconsciously feed off of that good feeling about ourselves and dub it as passion? I know there was a period of time when I didn’t want to be like one of those seemingly passionate Christ followers because I was afraid that I was just feeding my own ego, of comparing myself/being compared with other believers (a note on how fear can limit your growth as much as it can keep you from danger). I don’t have an answer to what passion is really supposed to look like, I just know that if it’s something genuine, I would stop second-guessing every person I see who have this unceasing desire for God. It’s not that I don’t want to get there, or that I don’t like people who are like that. I’ve just struggled over the years to truly understand what “passion” even means or looks like.
There is such a fine line between genuine passion and pride, and this odd realization brought me to look up the Passion Conferences (in such a short span of time, I grew from admiring their movement to suddenly questioning the validity of both their work and the people who are so influenced by it). Here’s what I found:
Vision: Passion seeks to gather college and university students across the nation and around the world to seek the face of God, asking Him to ignite in our souls a passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ and a desire to spread His fame to everyone on earth.
Purpose: Passion exists to glorify God-uniting students in worship and prayer for spiritual awakening in this generation.
For a long time I unknowingly idolized the 268 Generation groups. It was easy to think that if I was just able to be in the same arena as Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, David Crowder, and these big name worship teams & speakers, maybe, just maybe, then I would suddenly be inspired and be overflowed with God’s love. In all honesty, sometimes I still think that way, which is why I have sought to intentionally remove myself from the Christian hype and developed this weird bitter dislike for groups that people like. But let’s face it, I’m not doing any better on my own either. The Passion Conferences have a “legitimate” purpose. But the more I read the Bible, conference visions, ministry goals, Francis Chan books, pastors sermons, and other Christian resources, I’m realizing more and more how (ridiculously) much faith it takes, and how much of myself I’m going to have to deny. I don’t want to just waste my days contemplating on this thought and being fearful of myself, I want to be liberated with a “passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ”. Who doesn’t? I think maybe if we stopped spending so much time worrying about being passionate, then we’d finally turn the focus away from ourselves. Shouldn’t God be the one to say whether we’re actually passionate or not? After all, He IS the subject we’re chasing after. Can we please stop with these sermons about “passion”? It’s really confusing the heck out of me.