I hesitate to use the following illustration, because it may create more conversation than either of us wants once I come to Somerset for the meeting, but use it I will. I’ll enjoy (I think) talking with you about!
I have been involved in various ways in small college athletics most of my adult life, as a player, a coach, and athletic director. I have seen passion for one’s team expressed in a variety of ways through the years. I grew up in Arkansas, where one university pretty much dominates athletic allegiance, the University of Arkansas (where Malik Monk should have gone (LOL)). I’ll be glad to teach you to “call the hogs” while I’m in the Bluegrass State, free of charge! We’re pretty passionate about our HOGS.
Now, I live in Alabama. You may have heard about the two main college football teams in the state. One college thinks the other runs a JV program (you can guess), but I can tell you that passion runs deep at both Alabama and Auburn. I’ve heard Roll Tide Roll and War Eagle so much that I’m about to go nuts! But I have absolutely no doubt about the passion of both fan bases. Saturdays in the fall are just below Sundays on the priority ladder.
And now, I plan to spend a few days with all of you where, my guess is, most people have a collegiate passion for the Big Blue Nation. I must admit to you that I am jealous of Kentucky’s following, especially in men’s basketball, my first athletic love. I am aware that there is another “basketball” university in Kentucky (some would say several more), but it’s pretty clear that none matches the support of Kentucky. The “other university” appears to be a bit “under the weather” in recent months. No doubt, some of you hope for a quick recovery.
Passion is a wonderful thing, if used in the right way. Often in scripture, the idea of passion is used to describe something evil (Romans 1.26-27; Galatians 5.24; 2 Timothy 4.3; James 4.3; 1 Peter 4.3), but it is also used to describe an emotion that moves us to act wisely and earnestly (Colossians 3.23; 1 Corinthians 10.31; Romans 12.10-11; Isaiah 26.8-9; Proverbs 8.10-11; 1 Peter 4.8). Look at the verses mentioned, and ask yourself if your passion for right things is what it ought to be.
In Acts 1.3, Luke records the following; “...to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” “He” in this sentence is Jesus who presented Himself alive after His scourging (highly tortuous), crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ last week and consequent illegal trial, torture, and crucifixion is known as the Passion Week by many. The word “suffering” in this verse is closely related to “passion” and is from the Greek “paschō” and means “to be affected,” or “to have been affected;” His suffering was unlike any man that has ever lived. In fact, the word “excruciating” originated from the word “crucifixion.”
Jesus’ “Passion” Week showed that He set HIs mind on suffering, dying, and being raised to life again so that we might receive eternal life if we trust and obey Him. If we have been changed from an old man to a new man, our passions have changed (Ephesians 4.17-24). Now, one of our strongest passions should be based upon compassion. The word “compassion” is a compound word of “with” (com) “passion” (strong emotional feelings). Not the sinful passions of my previous days, but as Jude wrote, a now desire to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1.22-23). This new passion has to do with my great, deep desire like a burning fire within me to help rescue the perishing, or as Jeremiah puts it, “There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20.9).
Call “passion” what you will - affection, animation, dedication, devotion, eagerness, fervor, fire, intensity, rapture, spirit, zeal, or whatever else you desire. Just make sure that what you are truly passionate about does not take a back seat to anything that is earthly, not even Woo Pig Sooie or Big Blue Nation! I’m all about passion for a team, but I’m more about God’s team. You?