There are certain stories on the news1 that I’d just rather avoid. One of them was the recent events of another US journalist being executed by the Islamic military group ISIS in Syria. They once again posted a video of the event. Seeing stories like that on the news makes your stomach churn, and my instinct is to get the remote and make it go away.
Sometimes, though, I have to wonder. Why on earth do these reporters and journalists put themselves in harm’s way like this? Why would someone go to the most dangerous part of the world, around the most dangerous people in the world and make themselves stand out by asking questions? It’s obviously risky and seems downright foolish.
Well, someone I know recently mentioned an answer to this question. The journalists, he said, feel compelled to go. These men and women have such a passion for witnessing and reporting the truth and for getting that truth out into the world, that they feel compelled to get out there and make sure that these stories are told. Now, they don’t want to die, and they often take precautions to keep themselves as safe as possible wherever they are. But their passion for the truth keeps them from simply quitting their jobs or getting less dangerous assignments. They are compelled to go.
As a Christian, this brings up a question: do we feel the same passion and determination in our relationship with our God that these reporters do for their stories? That passion can be difficult to feel. Often our faith doesn’t feel particularly urgent. After all, we’re not in danger; we don’t face the threat of death at every turn. The church is there today, we reason, and it will be there later. What does it matter what I actually do today?
Even our church membership can be something of a yawn. As long as my name is on a dusty membership book somewhere, or as long as my vital statistics are saved on a computer program, I figure I’m covered. If I feel like attending church or serving in some way, great. But I certainly don’t feel compelled to do so.
But our church membership and our connection to God is meant to be much more than that. It’s not about our names on a membership list. It’s not even about our attendance percentages or service records. It’s the fact that we are compelled to act, that we have a passion to stay connected to our Savior.
Where does this passion come from? God’s Word tells us. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
The source of our passion, the thing that practically forces, compels us to action, is the love of Jesus. And how did he show his love? He died for all. He put himself in harm’s way; he went to the most dangerous place there was and suffered the worst punishment that could ever be: death on a cross and the punishment of hell for our sins.
And how does his death, all those years ago, change us? He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. We have a passion, too. Our passion is to live for the same Savior who died and rose for us.
What does this passion actually look like in our lives? Well, it’s not about just having our names on a membership list. It’s about staying connected to our God. That connection is there as we speak to God in prayer, and even more importantly when he speaks to us in Word and Sacrament. That connection is there every time God speaks to us in his Word. That connection isn’t about a feeling, it’s about the objective reality of God working at strengthening faith by Word and Sacrament.
When God has strengthened us in this way, we realize something amazing. We want to serve him. We are compelled to serve him. We don’t just want to do that in a church group or when we know someone who is struggling. No, we want to serve our God at all times in everything we do.
It comes down to this: we’re already in harm’s way. We live in a sinful world. The devil isn’t always as obvious as a terrorist group. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He wants us to yawn away our faith, or lose it in a calendar too cluttered with other cares. That’s why we need passion. Jesus’ passion. His sacrifice. His love compels us. So stay in his Word. Let God change your heart. Let him give you passion to serve and live for him.