Passion and Gentleness in the Church

            One of the most frustrating things about being a church member involves passion. Passion is a good thing – when revolving around worthwhile ideals or convictions and when acted upon appropriately. When we really feel passionate about God’s Word, reaching the lost, and/or discipling the believers, God can do some amazing things through us. Of course, we must couple our passion with humility in the fear of the Lord, knowing that anything accomplished from our own efforts will be futile and worldly… trusting in the Lord for Him to minister through us yields much productivity for the kingdom of God.

            But what happens when others don’t share our passion? What happens when our dear brothers and sisters in Christ around us are not growing in the Word like we are, or are not conforming their character to that of Christ as we seek so diligently to pursue? What happens when they look at our passion and are a little take aback by it? The easy thing to do is to get frustrated with them.

            When we get frustrated with other believers because they do not share our passions, what ends up coming from such a convergence of attitudes (passion vs. apathy, or passion vs. indifference, or passion vs. immaturity) is quite honestly, a form of self-righteousness. Frustration over a lack of passion in others easily leads to a mindset of spiritual superiority… Spiritual superiority breeds unhealthy rebuking and correcting, because the inward storm of narcissistic spiritual frustration rarely comes mouthward lovingly or gently.

            Yes, the Bible tells us to rebuke each other, and to correct each other. But two things are always present in such cases: (1) sin, and (2) patience.

Matthew 18:15-20.

            Jesus tells us here to rebuke the sinful brother: the one living in unconfessed, unrepentant sin before God and man. He tells us to do this privately, and if repentance does not follow, only then to involve others. But please notice that this rebuking is not for apathy or a lack of passion. Here, Jesus encourages rebuke over outright sin against someone.

2 Timothy 3:16.

            Paul says that it is the Word of God which is profitable for rebuking and correcting, not earthly wisdom or our own superior passions or convictions. Any rebuke or correction that is done from the feelings, opinions, or passions of man is misplaced. The Word itself is what is profitable for this purpose. Not the words of man.

            Paul tells Timothy in other portions of 2 Timothy that he is to “guard” the gospel message (1:14), “endure” all things so that the elect may be saved (2:10), “correctly teach” the Word of truth (2:15), and to “proclaim” and “persist in” the message (3:2). And what is the girdle with which to wrap this persistent proclamation of the Word? …

2 Tim. 2:24 – “The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.”

2 Tim. 4:2 – “Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.”

            Gentleness. Patience. Encouragement. Teaching. If we allow our passion for the Lord to displace one of these characteristics, we have fallen from being led by the Spirit of God, into being led by our own passions. And being led by our own passions is a precarious way to live the Christian life:

2 Tim. 3:7 – “[‘Avoid these people…’] For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

            Women are generally more relational and passionate than men (and smarter and more organized too, but that’s not relevant here). Those who are “led along by a variety of passions” are easily susceptible to deviant theological teaching because those individuals evaluate things emotionally instead of scripturally (keep in mind, we’re not epitomizing all women this way, but rather, all those women and men who are led by passion and not by truth). That’s where being led by your own passions will take you: personal feeling over scriptural truth. Paul further characterized these weak-spirited individuals in verse 7 by saying they are always learning something, but never able to come to an understanding of the truth.

            What happens when we allow our passions to usurp our gentility and patience is that we actually begin to impose our own passions and convictions on those around us. Many times, if we’re not satisfied or confident with our own spiritual life (because we fail to live up to our own passionate standards of spirituality), we impose those passions and convictions on others. It’s kindof a coping mechanism for us. “If I can’t live up to my own impossible standards, set by my passion, then everyone else around me should also feel as helpless and useless as I do.” We could be nice here and just say, “They don’t share my passion.” But the truth is much deeper than that.

Romans 15:5-7 – “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

            That was so easy to type. It’s much harder to live. Why would Paul pray to God for peace and acceptance among brothers and sisters in the church? Why not rebuke them for this and correct them passionately? Because if agreement, peace, and acceptance is going to be realized among a group of human beings, it will be of supernatural origin. It takes patience, encouragement, and perseverance. Why perseverance? Because it took you your whole life to get where you are spiritually. Why would you think it should take anyone else less time?

            It is not our own wisdom or passion that corrects brothers and sisters and leads them into faithful obedience before God. That will be the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, through the revealed Word of God. In the meantime, we are not called to raise controversy and openly rebuke the lesser motivated believer(s) from our own passion. We are called to teach in gentleness and patience the Word of God. And to allow the Holy Spirit to do the convicting and the changing.

Grace and Peace,

Tony

2 thoughts on “Passion and Gentleness in the Church

  1. Thanks for sharing this, as hard as it was for me to read. Ironically, at the bottom of my screen, I have Word document minimized that is titled “VBS Volunteer Assignments” and has quite a few blanks that make me uncomfortable as the time until VBS 2012 gets shorter and shorter. This blog most certainly hit close to home with me because I struggled with this a lot while serving in children’s ministry, especially in the area of needing volunteers for various ministries. When people don’t share your passions in ministry (which is very common in preschool and children’s ministry! Ha!), not only does it leave you frustrated, but sometimes it also leaves you “high and dry” in that you literally cannot do something that you’re expected to do because you simply don’t have the manpower to pull it off at all, or at least not as well as you would like to. Maybe that’s a totally different blog topic. 🙂

    God plays the role of the Holy Spirit much better than I or anyone else can, thankfully. There is great comfort and freedom in knowing that He shares our passions for ministry if they came from Him (and not from selfish ambitions) and are the desires of His heart which means that in His sovereignty, He will take care of the things that need to be taken care of (resources, volunteers, etc.) to make them come about. Over numerous occasions, I experienced and witnessed His power to change my heart and/or change the hearts of the volunteers required to serve and take care of children through various ministries. He is so faithful to His own who’ve been called according to His purpose.

    1. Thanks for your comment CW. Trusting God for not only vision, but the personnel and resources to accomplish that vision is a lot more difficult than any of us would let on. But if He is the One who has put it in our hearts, He will always provide. Thanks for sharing!!!

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