Passion

Today, there are tens of thousands of people gathering in our nation’s capital to support President Trump’s efforts to overturn the certified results of the November election. Among them are many who confess Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

There is a great quote from C.S. Lewis’s book, The Screwtape Letters, that I think fits our time. For any of you who are unfamiliar with this work, Lewis writes from the perspective of a senior devil writing letters to advise a junior devil on strategies to lead his ‘patient’ away from the Lord. The senior devil, Screwtape, writes this to his underling, Wormwood: “All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.”

Over the past six months, I have been amazed at the passion for political activism by so many Christians. I want to make clear that I am not opposed to standing up to injustice, to professing a political point of view, and even taking to the streets to emphasize it. Yet, I wonder, if these folks were as passionate in seeking the Lord, for reading and applying his Word, for prayer, for serving, and for discipling others, as they are to express their political opinions, what would the Church look like. My guess is it would be more what the Lord intended in the first place—a community that would be known by its love and service to others, and by the power of transformation of all those who are a part of it. 

It seems to me we are dangerously close to falling for Screwtape’s trap. Our social and political passions are being encouraged, while the call to devote ourselves first to the Lord is muted. There are many calls to pray for America, but I wonder how many of those prayers end with, “not my will, but yours be done.” The danger of extreme passion for anything, and why the Enemy desires to push us in this direction, is that it becomes what drives us. It may be for politics, for career goals, for a hobby, or a sports team. It is our motivation rather than a love for the Lord. We, thus, can end up being a passionate conservative or progressive who happens to be a Christian. Or a passionate salesperson who happens to be a follower of the Lord. Or even a passionate fan of a sports team who happens to confess Christ. It’s backwards! Rather than our passions for the Lord flowing into other things, and, thus, keeping them from becoming idols in our lives, we become devoted to our passions. The energy is then directed away from pursuing the Lord; we’re too busy following our true passions.

To paraphrase Jesus, what good is it to pursue the earthly things for which we are passionate and lose our soul, because we had little left for God? You may think in the moment that the results of a political election, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, or your career are of great importance and need your total devotion, but the truth is there is nothing on earth more important than your relationship with the Lord. Our Enemy wants nothing more than for our devotion to be directed toward anything but God. And the more extreme, the better. 

The Church in America I believe is in grave danger. For so many of us, our passions have turned toward other things that seem in the moment more important, particularly politics. The truth is, if we want to change our nation, it won’t be because the Republicans or the Democrats are in power, or that the Supreme Court leans conservative or progressive. The nation is most likely to be changed by the Church fulfilling its mission: 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

That can only happen if our passion first and foremost is to know the Lord and to obey him. If we can do this, it will be exciting to see what change flows from that!

© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.

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