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Passion and Impurity

Updated on November 20, 2014

My dad’s from South Carolina, and he’s a huge football fan. Any time the Gamecocks are up, he’s watching, often calling up my brother so they can discuss the game they’re currently watching. My dad’s a passionate man, and if the Gamecocks are winning he’s likely to start shouting with glee; if they’re losing, he’s more likely to lose his temper and start calling the players names. Not understandably, this drives my mother insane. She’s told my dad that his attitude has made her hate football, that she can’t understand why his happiness needs to depend on a football team’s goal-scoring abilities.

Frankly, I hardly know how to handle this. I’m no sports fan myself, but I don’t want to belittle what my dad loves. On the other hand, I agree with my mother that he sometimes lets football run his life, and there have been times when I would have liked to snatch up the remote and turn it off. Both of my parents are fine Christians, but they’re not perfect (for the record, neither am I), and this is definitely something they need to work on.

And it’s probably something a lot of people need to work on. Sadly, we tend to cheer more loudly when our favorite team wins then when a lost soul accepts Christ. Whether it’s truly sinful obsessions like drugs or alcohol, or intrinsically innocent things like games or money, nothing should take over our minds to the point that we forget Paul’s admonition: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). What’s more, we need to remember what Christ acknowledged are the two greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” as well as, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 28:37, 39). It’s good to be passionate about what you love, but not when your passion leads you to put your own interests over others and over God’s commands. I myself struggle not to obsess over different things in my life, especially books and TV shows. It’s a lifelong fight, and it has to be given to God.

I know: it’s hard to do this in our individualistic culture, where passion and emotion are regarded as the infallible treasures of life. The world, and the devil, want us to put our passions ahead of Christ. But we have to fight to give our passions to Christ. He knows whether or not the Gamecocks, or any other team, ought to win, and if they give their victory to God, then their victory is good. But the real good is in the praise, not the win.

If you’re struggling with putting different things in your life over God, I advise you, as my brother or sister in Christ, to pray, and to spend your time praising God for what he’s given you. A word of caution, though: if you’re dealing with someone else whose vibrant emotions are upsetting you, your job is to forgive, and forgiving involves not dwelling on the sin in question. Self-righteousness is as much a sin as idolatry, and if we let ourselves sulk and resent others for their outbursts, then we’re no better in God’s eyes. It does no good to avoid the society of tax collectors or prostitutes if it means we have become Pharisees.

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