My generation (those of us in our 20’s, and 30’s) has informally been dubbed the “Passion Generation.” Evidently because we’re full of fire and zeal and a longing to change the world! I’m exceedingly expectant that because of this great passion, today’s young adults will affect major changes in issues of poverty, trafficking, creation care, disease eradication, racial reconciliation, reaching the lost and more.
But passion alone can’t accomplish long-term fruit. Movements that are just fueled by righteous indignation and fervor can quickly burn out, or their focus gets distorted, or their leaders go crazy, or they don’t actually accomplish anything except hyping people up.
I’ve seen too many of my friends, not to mention myself, be quick to jump on every train that says it’s off to make a difference. It’s just so exciting to take a stand on something that matters! And, don’t get me wrong—that can be a good thing. Praise God that more and more people are finding creative ways to engage our society in helping a world in need. I just wonder if deep change and lasting impact comes that… easily… and if it really looks that… cool.
We live in a culture that promises quick change, and that we can look good while we’re at it— “Like this on Facebook and you’ll feed a hungry family for a week.” “Wear this shirt and you’ll help end this war.” “Buy these shoes for yourself and you’ll provide shoes for a child in poverty.” Yes, we can get pretty pumped up about things like this (and maybe more of us should be). But is that all we’ve been called to as followers of Jesus?
No one can deny that Jesus was pretty passionate. He threw tables. He drew crowds. He yelled at hypocrites. He started a movement. But around Easter time when we speak of the “Passion of Christ” what do we actually mean?
We’re referring to Jesus’ deep suffering… his anguish and sacrifice and surrender. His willingness to die. Jesus’ passion was much more than emotion and enthusiasm; it was gut-wrenching abandonment to the will of His Father, no matter the price he would pay. In fact, the first definition of the word “passion” in my dictionary is “the sufferings of Jesus Christ from the Last Supper until his crucifixion.”
When Jesus called his disciples to join him in his movement, he wasn’t just asking for a brief commitment or a culture-savvy stance on a hot-button issue. The kind of passion he ignited in his followers cost them much more than a t-shirt and lasted longer than a passing fad.
Think of all the ways he so openly spoke about the cost of discipleship:
- Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me
- Give away all that you own and be my disciple
- The way is narrow and few find it
- Hate your father and mother and sister and brother and come follow me
- Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head
- Die to yourself
It’s no surprise that many people stopped following Jesus when his teachings got too difficult to swallow or he required more than they wanted to give. Jesus even asked Peter at one point if he also wanted to leave. And Peter answered “To whom would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Ask every one of the 12 disciples (most of whom died for the sake of Christ) if it was worth it to join Jesus, and they would say absolutely yes! The cost was great, but the reward was even greater. Their lives had no other meaning apart from being caught up in the plan and purpose of Jesus.
These men were the first in our Christian heritage to be part of the unending line of passionate disciples who “loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11).
History and present-day missiology confirm that most major advancements of the Gospel into dark places have been fueled by suffering and martyrdom. And quite frankly, that unnerves me, because I do desperately want to see the unreached experience Christ’s Truth and Light. I would even say I’m pretty passionate about that. But does my passion also include an expectation, perhaps even a longing, to suffer? Can I agree with Paul who said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10)?
Paul’s main objective in suffering is that he might know Christ.
He is more passionate about a Person, and less about a cause. His desire above all is to draw near to Jesus himself, more so even than bringing others near to Jesus. He would willingly and joyfully suffer because of his love for Christ, not just because of his love for people and especially not just for love of a movement.
I’m learning, slowly but surely, that passion about anything less than the Person of Jesus and his glory can easily fade, disappoint, drain me, or accomplish very little. But as I fix my eyes on Christ and come to know him more, he fuels me with his vision and purpose for reaching his lost and hurting world.
So may we, the Passion Generation, not hesitate to count the cost, take up our cross, and follow Jesus Christ himself, who is infinitely more worthy than the most worthy cause. He alone has the words of eternal life.
Sarah Bourns serves in the realm of staff care for Envision, providing support, resources, and equipping for our 40+ long-term workers in the U.S. and around the world. Sarah is originally from California, and enjoys cooking for friends, teaching English, spending time outdoors, and getting auntie time with her nieces and nephew.