Those two words really do sum Paul up.
There’s one moment in the course of his correspondence with a troubled church in the very cosmopolitan
2 Corinthians 6:1-12
Such enthusiasm, such passion is not for everyone. Some there are who are the enthusiasts, they are the ones who are enthusiastic. Some there are who are passionate about things. But it’s not for everyone.
Paul wasn’t so sure.
I love that expression he uses of himself in verse 11.
Dear friends in
That’s the phrase he uses – his heart is wide open as he has a massive heart for all he does. That’s the passion. That’s the enthusiasm.
And Paul is not willing to accept that he should be the only one with the enthusiasm and the passion.
Paul is critical of the lack of enthusiasm, the lack of passion of the Corinthians. “It is not we who have closed our hearts to you; it is you who have closed your hearts to us.”
Then he goes on to speak in a kind and fatherly way …
I speak now as though you were my children:
Show us the same feelings that we have for you.
Then comes a wonderful invitation.
Open your hearts wide!
I love that invitation.
Open your hearts wide!
Let’s not leave it to the few to be enthusiastic, passionate. Open your hearts wide!
Let the enthusiasm rise up: don’t stifle it. Open your hearts wide!
My guess is that most of us, all of us have some things we feel strongly about. We may keep it to ourselves. One of the key things to releasing the energy that is latent in a church is to identify the things people are passionate about and then to harness that feeling of passion.
It’s good to identify what it is we feel passionate about … and then to release that into the life of the church. Open your hearts wide!
Most things we feel passionate about we can harness into the life of the church.
1. We need a standard – a measure by which to measure what we do feel enthusiastic and passionate about.
2. We need a focus - something in church that is an over-arching thing to arouse our enthusiasm and passion.
3. And we need a strength - to enable to sustain our enthusiasm and our passion.
It is fascinating to see how at each stage Paul has something to say to help us.
- We need a standard - a measure by which to measure what we do feel enthusiastic and passionate about.
Paul gives us precisely the measure we need in 2 Corinthians 5:14.
We are ruled by the love of Christ.
Most of the things we are passionate about can be brought under the rule of Christ. Maybe we are passionate about our work – it is important to remember that the sphere of work, work practices, the things that you do, the values you adhere to are ‘ruled by the love of Christ’.
Maybe we are passionate about an interest – sport - how we play the game, how we express our support from the terraces … all are ruled by the love of Christ.
Maybe we are passionate about a cause – use this as a rule of thumb. Is the cause you are passionate about one that can be said to be ruled by the love of Christ. Are you passionate about moral issues … in your passion for those moral issues be ruled by the love of Christ. Are you passionate about political issues, be ruled by the love of Christ.
If you sense that a political cause is not ruled by the love of Christ, that the way in which a moral cause is being pursued is not ruled by the love of Christ … check what it is that you are passionate and enthusiastic about and think again.
As we are ruled by Christ the task in church is to harness those things we feel passionate about to shape the life of the church. Over the years we have had a passion for mission – support of the mission boxes, the CWM birthday scheme, but also doing mission, Alpha locally, serving in the community, use of premises, international justice and care – Christian Aid. A passion for being inclusive of people – in our access, a passion for the environment?
I have a passion for training – I want to share with others.
As we open our hearts wide, let what we are passionate about be ruled by the love of Christ.
- We need a focus - something in church that is an over-arching thing to arouse our enthusiasm and passion.
In the lead up to this passage in chapter 6 of 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of the one over-arching thing that is at the heart of all that makes him so passionate, all that fills him with such enthusiasm. He comes back to the same thing in various ways time and time again.
It is in verses 19 and 20.
We are to be ambassadors for Chrsit
Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
The NRSV puts it in a way that arouses my passion and fills me with enthusiasm.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself
This is the nub of the matter.
The world is out of joint. But in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. In Christ God is putting the world back together again. That’s something to be passionate about. That’s something to be enthusiastic about. Open your hearts wide!
That entails a wonderful sense of forgiveness – in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.
That’s the liberating thing. Whatever has gone wrong, whoever has gone wrong, whatever is falling apart, whoever is fallen apart in Christ God is there to put it back together again, not counting all those wrongs, but wiping them away.
This is something of a thrill in a world where we are conscious of so much that goes wrong. I want to be part of that. And that’s exactly what Paul wants of us.
Open your heart wide! He says to each one of us – you need to be part of this.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ!
That’s the thing.
Open your hearts wide.
Catch the enthusiasm.
Be ambassadors for Christ
Exactly what was said by Marcus Borg at
In the afternoon Marcus Borg, a NT scholar who had studied at
He asked the question what would his message be?
What was Jesus’ passion – what was he pawssionate about?
And the answer he gave – God and the
His message to us?
- Be passionate about God: centre in God
- Participate in God’s passion for the world. Change the world.
It was wonderful – great stuff.
But one thing more is needed.
Something is lacking.
We not only need a standard and focus …
- we need a strength
It is only possible to be enthusiastic to be passionate by drawing on a strength beyond ourselves. The words carry that meaning with them. My dictionary tells me that enthusiasm comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos – a god-inspired zeal, from enthousiazein to be inspired by a god, from en meaning in and theos meaning a god.
Passion comes from the Lation passio passionis from pati passus – meaning to suffer. When you are passionate about something you are keen enough on it to be prepared to suffer for it.
Those two words really do sum Paul up … they give the clue to what we need in order to sustain an enthusiasm and a passion that is ruled by the love of Christ and makes us Ambassadors for Christ.
Paul speaks of all the sufferings, troubles, hardships, difficulties he has endured – 6:5 being beaten, imprisoned, mobbed, overworked, deprived of sleep.
Then in verse 8 he says something very telling. It is something we need to draw on. We don’t just have something to be enthusiastic and passionate about, we have something to infuse our enthusiasm and passion with, something to give it the enduring strength it needs.
He speaks of showing himself to be God’s servants by the characteristics of his life – they are ones we would do well to nurture within ourselves – purity, knowledge, patience, kindness. These are the things that our enthusiasms and passions need to be infused with.
Then come four sources of strength – by the Holy Spirit, by our true love, by our message of truth, and by the power of God.
BUT EVEN THEN … we must be realistic. We must be down to earth. We must get real! It is not all plain sailing. There will be the storms. There will be the peaks and the troughs.
8 We are honoured and disgraced; we are insulted and praised. We are treated as liars, yet we speak the truth; 9 as unknown, yet we are known by all; as though we were dead, but, as you see, we live on.
The thing is that though there will be down times, the victory is God’s – he will be with us. The power we draw on is the strength of the Holy Spirit, the power of God – it is the power of the truth, it is the power of love.
Although punished, we are not killed; 10 although saddened, we are always glad; we seem poor, but we make many people rich; we seem to have nothing, yet we really possess everything.
Then it is that Paul appeals to each one of us
Catch the enthusiasm
Catch the passion.
Open your hearts wide!