Is passion complicit with faith?
Growing up in a Baptist church, at times I would hear the argument that one’s passions are a sinful anathema to one’s faith. But after living life for a couple decades, I’ve come to believe that this argument is erroneous, but up until now, I haven’t been able to identify the reason why.
Lately, I came at this from a different angle, by discovering that passion is an integral part of faith. The link between the two could be described as follows.
Passion is the emotional inflammation of Desire
Desire requires some expectation of what can happen.
What you expect from life depends on what you believe about life.
What you can believe depends on your faith.
Of note, reading John Eldredge has helped me get over this roadblock to my spiritual vitality. So here I’ll append an excerpt from his book, The Journey of Desire.
FAITH AS DESIRE
You may recall the story Jesus told of the man who entrusted three of his servants with thousands of dollars (literally, “talents”), urging them to handle his affairs well while he was away. When he returned, he listened eagerly to their reports. The first two fellows went out into the marketplace and doubled their investment. As a result, they were handsomely rewarded.
The third servant was not so fortunate. His gold was taken from him, and he was thrown into “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. My goodness. Why? All he did was bury the money under the porch until his master’s return. Most of us would probably agree with the path he chose – at least the money was safe there. But listen to his reasoning. Speaking to his master, he said, “I know you are a hard man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it.” (See Matthew 25:14-30 NLT.) He was afraid of the master, whom he saw as a hard man. He didn’t trust his master’s heart.
The issue isn’t capital gains – it’s what we think of God. When we bury our desires, we are saying the same thing: “God, I don’t dare desire because I fear you, I think you are hard-hearted.”
Just yesterday evening I was taking a walk in our neighborhood, talking to the Lord about going forward and establishing the ranch I have mentioned. I had been moving toward the creation of this place of ministry in what felt like sheer obedience, dragging my heart along behind me. God had been confirming the direction with many signs and affirmations. And yet I sensed that something was wrong. I was asking him what he wanted the ranch to be. He said, What do you want it to be? What’s in your heart? I was embarrassed by the honesty of my reply: “What do you care about my desires?” There is this hurt and angry place inside, and very old wound, that harbors some rather strong doubts about how much God really cares for me.
We all have this place, Life has not turned out the way we want, and we know God could have handled things differently. Even though we may profess at one level a genuine faith in him, at another level we are like the third servant. Our obedience is not so much out of love as it is out of carefulness. “Just tell me what to do, God, and I’ll do it.” Killing desire may look like sanctification, but it’s really godlessness. Literally, our way of handling life without God.
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Jesus had been talking about prayer by telling the story of a persistent widow who wasn’t getting the justice she deserved from a belligerent judge. The woman won her case because she refused to let up. Jesus used her as a picture of unrelenting desire; he urged us not only to ask, but also to keep on asking. And then he ended the parable by wondering out loud, “When I return, will I find anyone who really lives by faith?” (See Luke 18:1-8 NIV.)
We know in our hearts the connection he is making, though we haven’t admitted it to ourselves. To live with desire is to choose vulnerability over self-protection; to admit our desire and seek help beyond ourselves is even more vulnerable. It is an act of trust. In other words, those who know their desire and refuse to kill it, or refuse to act as though they don’t need help, they are the ones who live by faith. Those who do not ask do not trust God enough to desire. They have no faith. The deepest moral issue is always what we, in the heart of hearts, believe about God. And nothing reveals this belief as clearly as what we do with our desire.
- Σ Frame: Formality as an Expression of the Human Characteristic of Desire (2012 October 11)
- Σ Frame: Stepping up to the Challenge (2018 April 29)
- Σ Frame: The Three Step Path to God (2018 September 27)