How many times have you heard a church leader talk about making passionate disciples (or followers) of Christ? I bet if you surveyed a number of church websites, you would find that phrase quite a bit. Memorial Day is a reminder to me of what these words really mean, in particular the word passionate.
What It Means To Be Passionate
When you hear passionate, what do you think of? Excitement? Enthusiasm? Maybe even a little bit of craziness? Actually, passion comes from the Greek word pathos (πάθος). It means to suffer. It's a willingness to endure pain and suffering. That's a whole lot different than excitement, enthusiasm and craziness.
On Memorial Day, when we think of the servicemen and women in our country, I think it's safe to say they have a passion for the United States. Their passion has come at a personal cost. Many of them have suffered. Many of them have given their lives for their country. If you are a service member, or someone close to a service member, Thank You for your service and your sacrifice. Words are a weak response to what we really owe you.
Being a passionate disciple is not someone who shows up to church every Sunday without fail. It's not someone who sings loud and raises their hands in praise. It's not someone who gives 10% or more in the offering. None of those are wrong, but now that we've looked at what passionate means, how is passion lived out?
Passionate Followers of Jesus
Here's an example from the Bible. One of the disciples, the one who is labeled "Doubting Thomas," was actually quite passionate. Here's the situation: Jesus is well into his ministry and many Jews are questioning him. As a matter of fact, they are more than questioning him. They are quite hostile towards Jesus. In John 10, there is a confrontation between Jesus and some unbelieving Jews. In verse 31 they pick up rocks to stone him. (It says "again." Apparently, this is a somewhat regular occurrence in Jesus' ministry.) Somehow, Jesus escapes the situation and goes to safety on the other side of the Jordan River.
A very short time later, in John 11, Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus, dies. Before he dies, his sisters send for Jesus. They want him to come and heal Lazarus. They want Jesus to come back to the part of the country where the people want to stone him. Do you think the disciples suggested sending a get-well card instead? I wouldn't think they were too anxious to head back to that region. Would you?
So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ John 11:16
Wow, that is a passionate disciple! His life is not his own.
Now when you now hear the term passionate, what will you think of – emotions or excitement? For me, it’s easy to get emotional. Music or a powerful story can stir my emotions fairly easily. But passionate? For me, it's a gut check.
I am thankful for American soldiers so passionate about our country that they would give their lives. Most of the disciples, in their passion, gave their lives as martyrs.
There is One whose passion is a personal sacrifice for me and you. There’s only One whose passion makes a difference in our lives today and forever. His passion and sacrifice determine how we live today, and where we will live for eternity. Long before Mel Gibson made his movie, the church fathers coined the phrase, The Passion of the Christ.
So today, join me in offering a Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone) to the One who is passionate for you and me.