I wonder how passion became a Christian virtue. The word is now used frequently in evangelical blogs, books, and conference presentations to describe an essential quality of earnest Christian disciples. Here is an example from conference leader John Maxwell:

Passion powers achievement and provides fuel for great accomplishments. If you have passion about how you live, you’ll keep going even when the chips are down and everyone says you can’t do it. Passionate people don’t stop until they succeed.

If you’re passionate about something, you’ll act with enthusiasm and energy. You’ll keep going until you achieve your objective. There really is no substitute for passion when it comes to making the most of your personal talents.

John Maxwell, Talent Is Never Enough
(BusinessNews Publishing: 2014).

Best-selling author and radio evangelist John MacArthur says passion attracts people to his preaching:

There is a totally new joy in my preaching, a new sense of adventure that [listeners] can sense even in the way that I preach and the passion of it. It’s all fresh because it’s been informed with fresh new insights…I’m speaking my convictions with greater passion because I’ve had to test them from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22. And so what I’m holding on to, I’m really holding on to. The people are catching some of this joy. They listen not only to what I say but to the passion with which I say it. And you transfer to them not only an understanding of the Scriptures but an enthusiasm and excitement about it, too.

John MacArthur, “A Passion for Exposition,”
in Preaching with Power, ed. Michael Duduit (Baker Books: 2006).

Louie Giglio of Atlanta sponsors a massive annual rally of college students called the Passion Conference, “uniting students in worship and prayer for the purpose of spiritual awakening in this generation.” A generation ago, we would have called that a Holiness Conference.

In fact, the word passion now seems to be substituted for the work of the third Person of the Trinity. Think I’m exaggerating? Try substituting Holy Spirit for passion in the the quotes above, or the phrase filled with the Holy Spirit for the word passionate.

Sadly, we Americans tend to discount the value of our vocabulary as time goes by. We use words carelessly, without regard to what they really mean. But I don’t object to these exhortations to passion because I’m fastidious about language (though I am). I object because it implies that we can whip up our emotions and screw up our confidence to do what only God’s Holy Spirit can do.

We are not called to be filled with passion, but to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18).