“But my servant Caleb - this is a different story.
He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately.
I’ll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it.
(Numbers 14:24 The Message)
You may have noticed that there is something called ‘The Euros’ happening at the moment! Driving around this past week, we’ve seen houses and cars adorned with flags of the cross of St George, as football fans boldly demonstrate their allegiance to the national team. A former manager of Liverpool football team, Bill Shankley’s apocryphal saying, ‘Football is not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that’, really does seem to be the case for fans in both this and many other countries. Scenes at major football grounds, as well as rugby, cricket and tennis venues, all testify to the importance attached to sport and the passion with which following your ‘team’ is embraced by many fans.
Are we fans of Jesus and his Church? Do we exhibit the same passionate devotion to demonstrating our faith and sharing about it with others?
The quote from Numbers above comes from a story when Moses is pleading with God for the people of Israel, but God is recalling the many times they have tested Him, turned a deaf ear to Him and failed to follow Him, despite all He had done for them. God contrasts this behaviour with that of Caleb, who has followed God’s way passionately.
One of the characteristics that marked out the early Christian saints is that they understood faith to be passion. Faith, in terms of discipleship, is often not reasoned coolness. It is passion that spills over – the love that is stronger than death. It might be thought through. It may even be willed reason. But it has to be willed with every fibre of our being.
Extreme faith is not the same as passionate faith. Extremism is unyielding, unforgiving and self-righteous. Passionate faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. It abounds in energy and love because it springs from the liberality of God. It is released as a kind of raw energy, precisely because it breaks the chains of inhibition, and springs forth from spiritual encounters. But this is not extremism. It is merely passion resulting from encounter, conversion, conviction, resurrection and transformation. The work of the Spirit is one of refinement and discernment. It is often willed acts of moderation or self-control that emerge out of passionate convictions, grace and love.
I remember the zeal of my early days of following Jesus. Have I fizzled out a bit? Have I been worn down over the years, through cultural influences and small compromises? It is so easy to relax into our comfort zones and fail to maintain our passionate engagement with what the Holy Spirit is up to at this precise moment.
Let’s take up Alex’s challenge in last Sunday’s sermon, to become bold and passionate advocates for Jesus and His radical way of life, as we gather and grow together in Him.
Sylvie and Jeff
P.S. And hope you enjoy the Euros!!