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21-07-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet

images_18 The word “passion” is a curious word. This was originally a Latin word but has been adopted in many modern languages. It has two (seemingly) completely different meanings. First, it has the meaning of “suffering.” Usually, specifically referring to the suffering of Christ. Think of ‘passion play’, but especially on the ‘passion’, the famous masterpiece by J.S. Bach about the suffering of Christ. Or think of the passion flower, or passion flora in which people of old saw depicted the sufferings of Christ. Apart from the meaning of ‘suffering’, passion has, however, the meaning of passionate love. Someone who is passionate about something pursues it with his whole heart. This linguistic relationship we see between suffering and passionate love in the Greek of the New Testament. Thus, the word “suffering” in Romans 8:18 (“the sufferings of this present time”) is the same as the Greek word ‘passions’ in Romans 7:5 (“the sinful passions“). This Greek word (pathema) we recognize in words like ‘pathetic’ and ‘pathos’, but also in ‘pathology’ and the many words that end in -pathy (sympathy, apathy, empathy, telepathy, etc.). Why this linguistic link between suffering and passionate love? Are both concepts, after all, identical? Indeed, only suffering makes love visible. Can you imagine a convincing love story that does not encounter difficulty, pain, tears or alienation? Indeed, that is impossible. If everything is hunky-dory there may be a declaration of love, but if it is true becomes evident only when it must overcome difficulties. The proof of love can only be observed through suffering. Without the contrast of evil, the good remains hidden. Many a philosopher has already highlighted the importance and necessity of suffering. The well-known philosopher Nietzsche even wrote:

The people with whom I feel somewhat involved, I wish them to suffer, experience loneliness, illness, abuse, and indignities… ‘

Here, an atheist asserts that he wishes suffering and the worst of conditions on those who are dear to him, because only the worst makes the best visible. Amazing! Do atheists not reject God precisely for the reason of the suffering in this world? But when an avowed atheist, like Nietzsche, wishes suffering to those who are dear to him, does not the suffering in the world plead for God rather than against Him? If God is love (1John 4:8.16), how else than through suffering could He prove this? That the creation only through suffering comes to glory, does not deny God’s love, but proves it all the more. As Paul writes in Romans 5:8:

yet God is commending this love of His to us, seeing that, while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes.

That is real passion – in the double sense of the word!