Recently, I ran across this blog post and the article to which it refers.  Jay Lorenzen’s comments about the article are excellent, and you should read them – as well as the original article. My own reaction follows:

As a father of a college student, I have heard plenty about the social justice “movement” that is hitting our colleges. And, I am going to be right upfront about this: it is a pitiful shame that there has to be a resurgence at all, especially within Christian educational institutions, of a passion or at least an actionable concern for those who are struggling to make it. But, I also have a huge problem with the terminology and the fuel source that I see behind this “movement” thus far.

You can read about my issues with the terminology here.

So – fuel. I love passionate people, and unashamedly consider myself a person of passion. I believe strongly in what I believe, and I will passionately defend my belief. I am more than willing to change my opinion, but it will be a result of a convincing argument, not just fancy or emotion.

Emotion – there’s my problem. My daughter might argue with me about this (she is more than welcome to her wrong opinions – smile), but I think that this current resurgence of concern for social responsibility is one that is, for the majority, based on someone pulling some heart strings. I also think that it is perpetuated by people motivated by emotional response, who rely on emotional response for that perpetuation.

I love the passionate idealism of college students. But what I love more is watching that passionate idealism mature into passionate purpose. Idealism relies on a sense of fairness and an emotional “check” to determine what is fair or not. The problem with such an approach to societal issues is that it focuses on the symptoms rather than real solutions (“people are hungry so let’s feed them”, rather than “people are hungry so let’s equip them to escape the situation resulting in that hunger”). The result is a bunch of bandages placed on the wound without any real healing – but hey, we feel good because we put those bandages there, right?

Folks, it takes the maturity of “purpose” to put real and lasting action to “passion”. With purpose we realize that the bandage, while necessary, is only temporary, and that more extensive foundational work is required to heal the source of the wound. Let’s not rely on pulling heart strings to solicit guilt-laden service. Let’s help people understand how a love for neighbor is vital to the plan of God – a plan to save the world. Then, let us adopt God’s purpose (to save the world) and let that purpose fuel our service. This will get us beyond feeding the poor to actually changing their lives.

Evan Hunter speaks of a disjointed theology that can only sustain either social activism or spiritual growth. I’ve seen both. But, I am so thankful for a theological heritage that speaks of a “perfect love” where God’s love in us is realized through both our own personal spiritual growth journey and the resulting compulsion to help others to be transformed.

2 thoughts on “passionate.purpose”

  1. I am the Executive Director of a large Soup Kitchen in Lima, Ohio that has served just under 80,000 meals this year. I am also Associate Pastor at Spencerville Church of the Nazarene. I have echoed your words many times as I have spoken to Churches and Service Organizations across Northwest Ohio about the need to go beyond meeting just the physical need of food and clothing and focusing on the spiritual issues that lie underneath systemic and generational poverty. For the past six months, I have been implementing major changes in the focus of our ministry to help facilitate more intimate involvement of the Body of Christ with the "Least of our Society". I am now seeing amazing things begin to happen as the Church has moved from simply serving the needy, to becoming genuine friends with those that rely on our organization for their basic needs. When folks see that the Christians genuinely care about them, it opens the door to introducing them to Christ and makes transformation possible through genuine loving relationship with The Body of Christ.

    1. Good stuff, Aaron. In reading your response, an irony occurred to me. Once upon a time, the only people really interesting in "missional" work, here or abroad, were "old people". Come on, admit it's true (smile). Now, it seems we've had a generational shift, with fewer and fewer of our stalwarts willing to go on missions trips, but more and more young people who are willing, and passionately so. This is why it is so important to make sure we help college students fully realize their passion (which I think is a full fledged 'movement') and help them figure out how to transform some people's lives. We've got to harness the momentum.

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