Passion for anything, especially God, is wonderful, but it can also lead to singular thinking, inflexibility and a closed mind. Remember the 33,000 Christian denominations worldwide? My guess is there might be some inflexibility there.
I am a fairly opinionated person and I am passionate about my faith (i.e. I can become inflexible and closed-minded). I tend to have conversations with others who see God through the same lens I do. We worship similarly, think similarly, read the same kinds of books, etc. I am reaffirmed by these encounters and often find myself nodding in agreement. Based on my experiences and explorations I created a box (probably more of a fenced yard) to put God in. He fit nicely.
I know, as you do, that there are lots of other viewpoints among Christian churches, but we don’t go there. For the most part we stay in our comfort zones and keep God in the boxes we’ve put Him in.
But, what happens when we encounter someone who sees God differently than we do—quite a bit differently? And their God doesn’t fit into our box.
A while back, God brought some people into my life that challenged me on this very point. At first I respected the differences we had, mostly because we didn’t talk deeply about our faith. But once the conversations started and the seemingly great differences started to come to light, I was conflicted. I felt deep down that what I thought was right and what my friends thought was…well…wrong.
I felt this way for a long time, subtly trying to convince them of my points of view until eventually, God started to do a work on my heart. He let me see that He is WAY bigger than my ability to comprehend Him (and the box I put Him in).
A wise person told me that, like a diamond, God is multi-faceted. Through time different churches have focused on different facets of God (love, suffering, knowledge, relationship, etc.) Problems arise when we think the facets that we see are all of God.
Through his wise counsel and some painful lessons, God humbled my heart and opened my eyes to how awesome He really is. I saw that just because I thought one thing and my friend thought another didn’t mean I was right and she was wrong or vice verse. What mattered most wasn’t HOW we got there, but THAT we got there—to God through Jesus.
Unlocking my fenced yard and letting God out has been hard, but in the end it’s worth it because I want to know Him more than I want to be right (or comfortable).
God is truth and truth is hard. There will never come a time when someone says, “Aha! I got it! You all can stop searching, I figured out God.”
As Rob Bell says in his book, Velvet Elvis, “The Christian faith tradition is filled with change and growth and transformation. Jesus took part in this process by calling people to rethink faith and the Bible and hope and love and everything else, and by inviting them into the endless process of working out how to live as God created us to live. The challenge for Christians then is to live with great conviction, remaining open and flexible, aware that this life is not the last painting (of God).”
The Pharisees were passionate. They were confident, righteous and proud of their intimate knowledge of God. Yet when they encountered Jesus, they missed Him. He didn’t fit into the box that they created for God so they rejected the Truth when it stood right before them.
I know I don’t want to do the same thing!