What does passion look like anyway? We are often duped by cultural counterfeits that emit the steam of genuine passion, but are merely cheap substitutes. Two teenagers fondling their way through some heavy breathing and touching in the backseat of a car aren't necessarily experiencing passion for each other. No, it's more likely young lust in overdrive. A person screaming at the car radio during the morning commute isn't automatically passionate about that particular news bullet. He's more likely angered by the tailgater riding his bumper in the car behind. Just the same, passion really isn't the theatrics of the last church business meeting. That stuff is more apt to the drama of a person who didn't get his or her way. Owning team gear or any of our sports mania isn't genuine passion either. Or, few of our other compulsions for that matter. At least not in biblical, spiritual sense.
The passion so visible in the disciples of Jesus after the resurrection, however, had a distinct attitude and appearance. It identified them beyond the big talk and brave facade to visible in them in the weeks and days prior to the passion of Christ. Suddenly, there was a boldness in them that was more than rhetoric, stronger than their pretense of courage, certainly more real than the night they all deserted him and fled (see Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). After the resurrected Christ revealed himself to them, pronounced their mission in distinct terms, and gave them promises to guide and sustain their mission they were totally obedient. And, in my mind, that's what passion looks like---obedience.
Before his ascension to heaven Jesus said, "But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). In Luke Volume 2, he "...ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem..." (Acts 1: 4). We can only imagine the intrigue, confusion, and fear that must have gripped them in such a critical hour and place. But, scrolling through the early chapters of the Book of Acts we must note that they were obedient to this instruction from Jesus. Later, when the persecution of believers reached it's most intense and dangerous period, Luke added "And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1). The new look of these passionate followers was more than strong words, denial, and betrayal. They were obedient. And, that, at least in my limited view, was the new look of passion in them.
This demonstration of obedience was noted in everything they did. When the authorities demanded that they cease preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus, on numerous occasions, they preached and taught anyway, according to Luke's account (see Acts 4:3, 17; Acts 5:17). After being jailed and threatened further (see Acts 5:28), Peter and the Apostles announced that "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Luke concluded further that "...every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that Christ is Jesus" (Acts 5:42).
Their passion for the mission was impacting Jerusalem. Their obedience was further marked by Luke's summation of this new passion. In Acts 5:14, Luke noted, "And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women". In just the next chapter, this obedience was again summarized by Luke. Now, Luke wrote, "In those days as the number of disciples was multiplying..." (Acts 6:1, HCSB). The physician was exact in depicting the outcome of this obedient passion as growing the young church beyond adding to the greater mathematics of multiplying. What is more, the remainder of Acts chronicles the expansion of the Gospel to the far ends of the known world, just as Jesus had commanded in Acts 1:8.
So, what does genuine spiritual passion look like. It looks like obedience. Christ's disciples were now passionate and it was evident in their mission because they were obedient. And, eventually, this passion would lead them all to death.
Today we live on the resurrection side of personal faith. If we are genuine believers we've experienced the revelation of the risen Lord, have received the same mission that moved the first disciples beyond their big words and brave actions, and live with the guidance and assurance of the same promises given to them. The question for our times is, where is the passion? Perhaps it is lost in our feeble attempts to be obedient.
Paul wrote about this passion in words that strike me in profound ways right now. To the church at Philippi he wrote---
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in
the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied
himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being
found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-8, ESV
And, that is passion, being obedient unto death. It is my personal prayer, to live this kind of obedience. And, yours?
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