Saturday, October 22, 2016

Passion is overrated. . .

While talking to a group of people helping their congregation sort through the call process and elect a pastor, I heard them often speak of the desire to find out what the candidate's passion was.  It was as if this was the defining key to the individual and would thus give them the information they needed to figure out who was the magic man to be their shepherd.

I did not say anything at the time but it has since bothered me more and more.  The whole idea of a person's passion as that which defines them is a false one.  Now I am not saying I do not have passion, but my passions are hardly the lens through which I make sense.  In fact, just the opposite, I fear my passions only confound and confuse who I am.  For in most cases, my passions are not the faithful steeds who pull me to greatness but the rebellious stallions who must be controlled and kept under bit and bridle or they will undo me.

That does not mean that all passion is sin but that passion itself is dangerous.  Passion is impetuous and indulgent.  It skews the values we should assign to certain things and tends to turn life upside down by our new found want or desire.  Passion is more than anything else the pursuit of happiness (or pleasure, if you can separate that from happiness).

We live in an age in which we are told not to settle for a job but to find a place to pursue your passion (and one hopefully that will pay you extremely well to go after what makes you happy).  But what about all those unpleasant jobs that must be done?  Are there people whose passion really is snaking out a plugged up drain or spraying for pests and varmints or looking at people's diseased feet and rear ends?  Life is filled with things that have nothing to do with anyone's passion but they are still worthy things that must be done.  No parent relishes changing a baby's blow out mess in a diaper which has barely contained the toxic substance but this, too, is part of parental vocation.

Don't ask what the pastor's passion may be.  You don't want a pastor who has only passion.  You need a pastor who may not do all things well or with equal enthusiasm but who does them all -- from preaching to teaching to administering the sacraments to visiting the sick to burying the dead to catechizing the youth and those new to the faith, etc...  What happens if your pastor's passion is really video games?  Or golf?  Or fishing?  You had better hope that he has something more than passion and it would help if he had some self-control or do you plan on paying him to play video games, tee up on the green, or haul in a prize walleye?

Truth told, we would all be better off with a pastor who in most things is average but who has a strong sense of duty and self-control.  Passion is overrated.  Consistency and constancy is underrated.  The people were following the typical path of trying to find out who is the real guy behind the personal information forms they received but they were mistaken.  We are not defined by our passions.  We are characterized by the things we do not want to do but we make ourselves do over and over again because they need to be done -- the messy, dirty, unpleasant but essential things to life and work.

The sad truth is that our passions are usually for things that do not matter all that much.  We have a passion for social media but it has not satisfied our desire for friendship and we are online but still lonely.  We have a passion for pleasure but the shape of this pleasure seems to be solitary games on smartphones and tablets and computers as well as porn that substitutes for true love.  We have a passion for self but the cost of such self-centeredness is often the pursuit of anything more than the feeling and whim of the moment.  The reality is that your dream job may only ever be a dream, that your perfect spouse may not exist in flesh and blood, that your passions are better the good things that you must learn to value more than innate instincts and desires.

Passion is overrated.  Steadfastness under pressure and in the face of unpleasantness is underrated in church and home and life.  It is just as dangerous to talk about faith as passion or it may be as distant from us as the unfulfilled dreams that occupy our idle moments.  If we only go to church when we feel like it, we will not go at all.  If we do not pray except when we cannot avoid the urgency or when we really want to pray, we will never pray.  If we take personal devotion time only when we have the time or the desire, our spiritual lives will grow stale and sterile.  If we read Scripture only when we are passionate about it, the cover will gather dust.  Passion is overrated.  Force yourself to do what is good and right and salutary and pray the Lord that these may become your new and true passions.


Anonymous said...

Amen. The only passion that counts is our Lord's as he suffered and died for our sins. That is true passion. Thanks for a great article, once again.

David Gray said...

"Zeal for thy house has consumed me O Lord."

That was not viewed as a flaw.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

I have my own definition of passion and the place of passion in our lives. We should strive to increase our passion for Christ, passion for righteousness, passion for people and the lost, a passion to live humbly, a passion to share the gospel and the hope of salvation when opportunities are presented, and a passion to pray. a good thing if it is for the right reason.

ErnestO said...

Passion changes if you are one in Christ. If we are never moved to change when reading the Bible, then let us ask ourselves if we have understood it, for God’s Word must always bring reformation when it is rightly comprehended.