Skip to main content

Flabby With Small Passions

I don’t know what got me thinking about it, but lately I’ve been wrestling with a tension in our call as Christians.

On the one hand, we’re called to be passionate, to engage all of our heart, mind, soul and strength in our faith.

On the other hand, we’re called to live counter-culturally: to rise above all the bickering and infighting and ugliness that characterizes too much of our political and church culture.

Maybe what first got me thinking about this tension is the fact that this Sunday is St. James’ Day, and Jesus gave James (along with his brother John) the nickname “Boanerges,” which means “sons of thunder.”

One doesn’t earn a nickname like that by being a milquetoast.

God created us with strong desires. But too often we lose touch with those passions. In a passage called “Flabby with Small Passions,” the author John Eldredge reminds us that the devil’s ploy is to first make us humans flabby, with small passions and desires, and then we offer small satisfactions to those diminished passions so our experience is one of contentment, until:

We know nothing of great joy or great sorrow. We are merely nice.

Christianity has come to the point where we believe that there is no higher aspiration for the human soul than to be nice. We are producing a generation of men and women whose greatest virtue is that they don't offend anyone. Then we wonder why there is not more passion for Christ. How can we hunger and thirst after righteousness if we have ceased hungering and thirsting altogether?

As C. S. Lewis said, “We castrate the gelding and bid him be fruitful.”

The greatest enemy of holiness is not passion; it is apathy. Look at Jesus. He was no milksop. His life was charged with passion. After he drove the crooks from the temple, “his disciples remembered that it is written: 'Zeal for your house will consume me'" (John 2:17). This isn't quite the pictures we have in Sunday school, Jesus with a lamb and a child or two, looking for all the world like Mr. Rogers with a beard. The world's nicest guy. He was something far more powerful. He was holy.”

As I’ve said before, the word “nice” is nowhere in the Bible. Love, yes. Compassionate, yes. But no where are we called to set aside our fierceness, our strength, our passion. Quite the contrary, we’re called to engage every part of our heart, soul, mind and strength as we love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

But – here’s the other hand – that doesn’t give us an excuse to fall into the nastiness of our culture: the bickering, infighting and ugliness we see so much of. (Is it just me, or have political bumper stickers become more even more mean-spirited lately?)

Our call is different. As one of my favorite quotes puts it, “we are called to make gentle our bruised world, to tame its savageness, to be compassionate of all, including ourselves…”

The challenge is to find ways to engage all of our passions and desires in service to God and others. The challenge is not to squelch our passions and desires, but to offer and channel them in ways that God is glorified and others are served. The challenge is to throw every part of our self into a cause that builds up instead of tears down.

That’s more biblical, and Jesus-like.

It’s also a far more compelling vision of Christian spirituality – one you can get excited about and follow – don’t you think?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 



“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…

The Beatitudes, Lady Liberty, and Refugees

A sermon preached January 29, 2017
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…

The Best Posture of this Country

A sermon preached September 6, 2015

The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls Church, Virginia
James 2:1-17 Mark 7:24-37
In case you’re confused by the service leaflet, where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%.  
(And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…)
(Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available on line.)  
What you’re going to get from me today is a little different than a normal sermon.
Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events.