One day last Spring my husband and I were driving home having a heated discussion on who knows what. At one point in the conversation I said, “You don’t have to get so mad about it.” He said, “I’m not mad; I’m Hispanic.” What he meant was that he was passionate and for him being Hispanic (or Caribbean Hispanic at least) means being passionate. Anyone who knows me knows I am a very passionate person. It’s part of my DNA. In fact I joke that I too must be Hispanic. Passion isn’t a bad thing, and in fact everyone is passionate about something. And everyone shows their passion in different ways. My husband and I just happen to be vocal and animated with our passions.
Politics and religion seem to be topics that stir up our passions. We’re passionate because we care, because we strongly believe in something, and because we think something is at stake. In the midst of this political season, we have already seen people’s passions come to the center stage.
Being passionate isn’t unbiblical. I think of Jesus who was so upset about the business taking place in the temple that He overturned the tables. He was passionate about the sacredness of the temple and authentic worship. Read any of Paul’s letters and you’ll find a very passionate individual who wasn’t afraid to confront the church and call out specific members on controversial issues.
But as I was kindly reminded last night by some of my best friends, if we are not careful to bridle our passions they may lead us to a place of sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
So here are three reflections on how we are to handle our passions.
First, Cover your passion in prayer. Often I am too quick to speak and too slow to pray. It should be the other way around. Prayer acknowledges that God is the One who is in control, and through the discipline of prayer we submit to the Holy Spirit transforming our will to His. Sometimes my passions get so stirred I become angry. And sometimes when I get angry I sin. It’s OK to be angry (see Eph. 4:26), but it’s not OK to sin in your anger. I have noticed that when I spend time in devoted prayer, I am not as angry anymore, I am not as keen to react, and I have a peace that God is in control.
Secondly, Be sensitive in your passions. Last night God used my friends to bring to my attention that a recent reaction of mine was just as insensitive as those whose comments made me want to react. I have recently heard speeches and comments on the media and social media celebrating abortion. There’s no mention of loss of life; there’s no mention of sadness that abortion brings. Instead the issue of abortion is all about a woman’s right to end life and to be control of her own body. These remarks hit a button with me and my anger and passions were aroused. I thought, in that moment, the best way to make my voice heard was by saying something in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Although I believe in everything I said in that tweet, I did not show any sensitivity to those who may have had an abortion against their will or who were told that their baby was going to die no matter what. In fact, I heard about a woman through a friend of mine whose ultrasound revealed that the baby’s brain was growing outside of the skull. She ended up having an abortion. Did I change anyone’s mind about abortion by my tweet? Did I react with the same insensitivity as those who I was reacting against? Were my comments “gracious and seasoned with salt?” As I was personally reminded and as I remind you, let’s be sensitive, gracious and careful in our speech when it comes to those things we are so passionate about, especially in this political season.
Third, Do not let your passions hurt the cause of the gospel but rather help it. I believe we need to be passionate about salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ, about confronting sin that destroys the Church, about holiness, about missions, about Scripture and about gospel-centered social justice. But how I go about making my passions known and implementing them can point others to Christ or away from Christ. As I am constantly reminded, social media, for the most part, is not the way to go about it. It is so easy to get pulled in; I am so guilty of this! But God has constantly reminded me it isn’t the way. Arguing is not the way. Screaming is not the way. Bullying, having a one-sided argument, and labeling are not the way. James 3:5-6a, 13 says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. … Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” How are we going to win the world and to demonstrate our passions in a way that wins others to Christ? Through gentle words, compassionate hands, pure actions and loving hearts.
I will pray for you and please pray for me that we don’t shriek from making a stand; but as we make a stand about those things we are most passionate about that we will do it with grace, love, forgiveness and a piece of humble pie.