By Paul Proctor
April 25, 2004
Why do professing Christians today accept the unacceptable? We lie, cheat, curse, steal, covet and kill (abortion) just like the world around us and then gather on Sunday to demonstrate our “passion for Christ?” How can this be? I would suggest to you that it is because passion is all we are able to muster anymore.
Passion: “Intense or overpowering emotion such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.” (World English Dictionary)
It used to be that one’s faith in Christ was measured by their belief – a belief so strong and immovable that it manifested itself in a life long commitment of sacrifice, humility and perseverance. Christians didn’t just accept the mere existence of a distant and ambiguous God; they opened their bibles, studied His Word and actually believed all He had to say to them. They didn’t filter it with private passions, extenuating circumstances and personal experiences or run it through the consensus process at Sunday school to get a groupthink reading on God’s will. But, that’s not the case anymore, is it?
In our increasingly diaprax-driven culture, where everyone and everything is measured emotionally and experientially, the Christian faith is shrewdly being redefined as a “passion”, rather than a belief. This, of course, facilitates the global paradigm shift away from biblical authority, absolutes and accuracy to a more capricious and enchanting one-world religion that accepts anyone who believes anything, as long as they’re passionate about it.
So, what’s wrong with passion? Feelings and emotions are healthy, aren’t they? Of course they are. But, they are also fleeting and unpredictable and rely largely upon ever changing circumstances, sensory stimulation and psychological manipulation rather than on one’s own personal commitment to God and His Word.
Our faith in Christ fails for the very same reason so many marriages fail; because relationships today are established and maintained on feelings and emotions we require the other party to produce in us, not on the commitment, sacrifice and perseverance we ought to require of ourselves. And, when the relationship dwindles in the ebb and flow of emotion, we simply blame our failed passion provider and move on to the next exciting experience. And, so it is with a passion-based faith in God.
In our post-modern narcissism, we have subtly shifted responsibility away from self and made the success of our relationships the unspoken duty of others. That is why everything today revolves around entertainment, from pastimes to public school, to politics, to church, to bible study, to business, to shopping, to finance, to fast food, to the five o’clock news. We want the entire world, even God Himself to perform for us, until we laugh, cry, boo or cheer. Because, you see, if it’s not entertaining, we’re not interested.
Why do you think we worship celebrities in music, media, sports and politics and treat them like gods, giving them so much of our time, money and praise? It is because they entertain us and excite our passions like no one else. But, you know, Jesus refused to show his skeptics the signs and wonders they demanded expressly because they wouldn’t believe him. They wouldn’t take Him at His Word. They didn’t want to listen to Him and His criticism – much less obey Him. They wanted Jesus of Nazareth, to prove Himself and perform for them – kind of like we want God to perform for us and give us what we crave. Some things just never change.
According to Christian pollster, George Barna, there isn’t much difference between today’s Christian and non-Christian. Now, I don’t put much stock in surveys and polls myself, but one needn’t look very far to see startling similarities between today’s lost and “saved.” In fact, except for church attendance, there appears to be very little difference at all, anymore. We think the same, talk the same, look the same, act the same and go the same places to do the same things non-Christians do – except that we go to church on Sunday, which itself is becoming more like a movie theater or concert venue than a sanctuary. And, many of us attend just to keep up appearances or give the Lord another shot at motivating us into cooperation with performances by our pastoral passion providers.
Then, when we’re not motivated, we blame the preacher, the music minister, the bible study leader, the outreach director, the guy snoring in the pew next to us or God Himself – anyone but ourselves! Because it was THEIR job to keep us motivated, stimulated and interested in the Christian life. Why, because we don’t believe God and His Word anymore. We only believe in having our passions aroused by others. Just how is that different from the world and its ways?
Consequently, whoever comes along and amuses us best with music, drama, movies, stories, jokes, tears, flattery, food, frivolity and fun – THAT’S who we’ll follow – regardless of doctrine. The church, my friends, is ripe and ready to receive anyone, including a false Christ, who’ll successfully send our precious passions soaring to new heights. Maybe that’s the “strong delusion” Paul warned us about in 2nd Thessalonians 2:11. Your guess is as good as mine.
I suppose it has come to this because one of the many attributes shared by “Christians” and non-Christians alike is their universal disbelief of God and His Word. I know that sounds strange because belief is supposed to be the very core of our faith in Christ – believing God to the point of sacrificial living or dying – not just public displays of enthusiasm, affirmation, hugs, laughter, tears, group interaction and volunteerism. Frankly, you don’t need to be a Christian or even join a church to experience those things. You can get all of that and more by simply joining the Peace Corp. But, you won’t find eternal life there.
Hollywood even embraces a Christ these days, be it a politically correct, new age, designer Christ. What you won’t see or hear from Tinsel Town is an endorsement of God’s Word. That is the key difference. That is the proverbial line in the sand that separates God’s enemy from God’s own. His Word – you either believe it, or you don’t. Merely calling oneself a Christian does not make it so – passion or not.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21
You see, nobody had a problem with Jesus during His earthly ministry until He opened His mouth with the unmitigated truth. Only then did enemies arise in mass against Him. It’s no different today. Everyone likes a silent and submissive Jesus. In fact, most folks have no problem with silent and submissive Christians. But, let the Word of God pour out their lips and challenge the secular worldview and you’ll see a hatred come out of men’s hearts like nothing you’ve ever witnessed.
At least professing pagans, atheists and agnostics are, by and large, honest about their disregard for scripture. Contemporary Christians, however, seem content to hide behind a façade of faith that lends itself more to performance than perseverance.
Many of them claim to know God, experience God and even feel God’s presence in this situation or that situation while demonstrating an outright ignorance or indifference to His Word – accepting all sorts of unbiblical theories, worldly behaviors and carnal appetites rich in passion and void of belief.
I would go so far as to say passion has now replaced belief as the new definition of Christianity. Though many “Christians” no longer believe God’s Word, they are still very passionate about the image they have made of Him in their minds and will gladly praise that image as long as they are gratified and stimulated in some way. You see, under the new definition, our loyalty has become God’s responsibility.
The leaders of the church growth movement know very well that they can motivate, stimulate and artificially produce an illusion of faithfulness in the church today through our passions, which is why they rely so heavily on music, movies, psychology, celebrities, drama, flattery, felt needs and a friendly atmosphere. It looks so much like love and faith that only discerning eyes can tell the difference.
But the early church employed none of these things and grew by the thousands. Moreover, their focus wasn’t on growth. It was on faithfulness and obedience to Christ – Believing and obeying God even unto death. You see, the Holy Spirit grows the church by His power. It isn’t manufactured synthetically by the machinations of men.
Don’t get me wrong. Passion is a virtue as long as it follows belief and does not try to lead it around by the nose. However, when passion replaces belief as one’s primary motivation, our relationship to God is no more biblical than a marriage based on physical beauty and sexual desire. Simon Peter was notorious for his passion. And, it got him in to trouble repeatedly with the Lord. Early on, he was a loose cannon that actually did more harm to the faith than good because he didn’t believe God. It wasn’t until his passion was bridled behind belief that he became faithful and obedient to his calling as an apostle.
Simply put; passion is not enough. We must believe God – believe Him beyond our ever-changing circumstances, appetites and moods. Like Noah, Abraham and Moses; we must believe God even when no one else will.
What was it Paul said about Abraham in Romans 4:3?
“Abraham was passionate about God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
NO, he said:
“…Abraham BELIEVED GOD, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
And, so should we.”
Because, if you don’t believe God, your passion is pointless and it will inevitably do more harm than good.
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” – 1 John 2:3-5
Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for NewsWithViews.com, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org