Chocolate, social justice, cooking, sex, investment, sports, beer, music, Facebook, cleaning, fashion, gardening, Call Of Duty, education, movies, sunshine, administration, fitness, biking, reading, knitting, Angry Birds, military history, sky-diving, Solitaire, model trains, Lego, fund-raising, sketching, painting, helping others, trading, The Jerry Springer Show, conversation…

There are thousands of activities that someone may be passionate about. Most of us have an activity or focus that brings us to life.

Music is one thing that I welcome into my life everyday. My iPod or computer play music when I drive, spend time reading or work on preparing messages for my sermons. Knowing my propensity to enjoy it, I turn it off when others are around. I do not want my attention to drift between the song playing and the needs of the person in the room.

What are you passionate about? Every passion gives us opportunity to thrive or fail. A passionate interest can teeter between balanced involvement and a consuming fire that will destroy you.

Passion is most often thought to be:

1.     Strong and barely controllable emotion
2.     A state or outburst of such emotion
3.     Intense sexual love
4.     An intense desire or enthusiasm for something
5.     A thing arousing enthusiasm

In light of God’s love, how are we to live our lives? What are we to do with our passions and pleasurable pursuits?

One school of thought would say, ‘be all you can be. Carpe Diemseize the day!’
The world is yours to enjoy to the fullest. Do not live an ordinary or quiet life, but be an adventurous explorer. The challenge to this thinking comes when people face limitation and weakness that prevents them from seizing anything. Simple things like comfort, sleep and routine become elusive. Youthful passions are stuffed under the bed with the photo albums.

Another approach would tell us to seize nothing. All is vanity and illusory. Avoid activity that might be construed to be selfish or not contributing to the common good of others. Everything is consequential, so pay attention to only the interests that are clearly devotional and essential. The goal is detachment from the world and its temptations.

The challenge to this thinking comes when a person regrets never having lived beyond their childhood. Everything has been held suspect and threatening to their desire for transcendence.

Theologically, the tension comes between those who think the Scriptures start with Genesis chapter one and those who think it starts with Genesis chapter three. Do we start from the perspective of God’s Creation being a wonderfully, good act or do we start with human failure and the need for God to punish sinners and begin the multi-millennial project of restoring all things?

There is a place for the theological optimist and the theological pessimist or pragmatist. The Scriptures do start with wonderfully good Creation and the need to be restored and delivered from humanity’s failure. It is both/and, not either/or.

Every passion hints at something or someone greater. Chocolate and skydiving can be as sacramental as prayer and loving your neighbor. Similarly, social justice and Bible reading can be as empty as flat, warm cola. What are we to do? Do we give up attending church and helping our neighbor in the same way that we give up roller-skating or going to Bingo?

Somehow we need to be fully alive and give a healthy place to our pleasurable interests. But, it is not just that. We also need to surrender and relinquish the demands of passion. It is both/and.