Do we temper our passion with enough compassion?
I have always thought of passion as this wonderful characteristic to have. Passion, in it’s modern usage, is defined as boundless enthusiasm. That sounds like a good thing to have, right? Enthusiasm is nothing but good – even the word itself sounds joyful. But boundless? Boundless means having no boundaries, not having limits. No boundaries doesn’t seem like such a great thing – we need limits. Even toddlers need limits to feel safe. Unlimited enthusiasm… passion.
This new definition of passion is a far cry from its Latin origins. Passion stems from passi – the suffering of martyr’s like Jesus. You really couldn’t get much further from what I think of when I think of passion than that. But this older definition is what ties passion to compassion.
Compassion is the ability to suffer with someone, to bear their pain. The pity you feel for another’s pain and suffering is your compassion in action. Compassion calms and soothes. Compassion longs to connect and alleviate.
We are a passionate species, we humans. There is a lot of boundless enthusiasm in the world. I am intrigued by, desirous of, and skeptical of passion. I mean, do I really know enough to be boundless in my feelings about anything? Love is the only thing in my world that can run amuck and I’m ok with it. Love does not need boundaries – not real love. Unchecked passion about just about anything else though can get you into trouble – sometimes when you are right, and almost always when you are wrong.
I have been thinking a lot about passion because nothing brings out the passionate rhetoric quite like an election year. Political hot button issues breed passion. Pickets, signs, marches, slogans, accusations – all are tools for expressing our boundless enthusiasm around a particular issue. And here is where I struggle – what about my brothers and sisters who disagree with me? What about the living breathing people behind the political issue? Where is our compassion for one another?
As a society we take what are personal choices made by real people and make them theoretical and impersonal. We divide everyone into right or wrong without ever listening. An impersonal “cause” asks you to pick sides and if you don’t pick, well, then you must be on the other side.
Morality and politics. Morality and legislation. Love and politics. Love and legislation. Somethings just can’t be legislated. Some problems are only fixed in the heart and the government doesn’t control our hearts. Our passion expressed politically polarizes, destroys, breaks us down. But if I apply my passion toward helping someone make a different choice, or see things differently through conversation and loving them, it builds up and brings us together. Discourse, conversation, a willingness to listen to views that are different. This is compassion.
Please realize that for many of the things you feel passionately about there is a strong, bible loving Christian who feels the opposite. There are pro-choice Christians and pro-life Christians. There are homosexual Christians and straight Christians who love them. There are Christians who have had abortions. There are Christians who support gay marriage. There are Christians who are democrat and Christians who are republican. There are Christians who drink alcohol and Christians who abstain. There are Christians on both sides of every issue who believe passionately that they are on God’s side. Christians who believe sincerely and with love that they have a biblically sound view on life – and it is the opposite of yours. I might be that person.
We would do well to focus on love because I know of only One who knows Truth. The bible was not written so clearly that there is not room for conversation and that must have been on purpose. What is clear, very very clear, is the directive to love one another. There are no caveats, no interpretations, no exclusions. Love one another and love Me.
I know this will anger some. I know this will make some people’s blood boil. I know, I know, I know. Passionate responses are to be had in spades about any and all of those topics. Passion, the suffering of Christ. Perhaps we would all do well to take our passion to it’s source and lay it at the cross and ask God what He would have us do with it. A lot of times anger and hatred get hidden behind a label of passion. Hate and anger can’t hide at the foot of the cross.
There is a Truth. One truth. I just don’t know with certainty what it is, I only know what I believe it is. I do know that I’m a broken person and that I break God’s heart in a thousand different ways despite my diligent efforts to be a good person. I do know that God expects me to love everyone. But beyond that I simply have my faith, my beliefs, and my trust that there is mercy to be had when I am wrong.
Whatever your passion is – immerse yourself in it. Ask God to lead you into the heart of it and equip you for it. Leave judgement to God. Trust that he has given you strong feelings, passion, for a reason – He is calling you to love those people.
God doesn’t call you to a cause – He calls you to a people.
God doesn’t call us to judge – He calls us to love.
If you can’t love the people that embody the issue that you feel so strongly about that says something doesn’t it?
Love one another. Trust God to judge justly. Rest in the fact that you don’t know enough to judge, you know enough to love.
Let’s find some boundaries in our passion and start to feel compassion for those who believe differently than we do. Let’s pray they do the same.
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