‘A fire shut up in my bones.’ God-given passion at General Conference

The bishops’ emphasis on prayer is most visible as they offer to pray with people during the breaks in the legislative sessions. Pairs of bishops move to places in the lobby of the Oregon Convention Center just outside the doors of the main meeting room. There they pray with anyone who asks. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.
The bishops’ emphasis on prayer is most visible as they offer to pray with people during the breaks in the legislative sessions. Pairs of bishops move to places in the lobby of the Oregon Convention Center just outside the doors of the main meeting room. There they pray with anyone who asks. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Passion.

On day one of my first General Conference, that is what stands out to me. United Methodists are passionate people.

Before entering the Oregon Convention Center, I was greeted with passion. People were speaking out about the environment, for those who are sick, and over issues of human sexuality. Every one in attendance deeply loves Christ and the Church.

Some, however, are passionate about things others don’t understand. How could anyone get so worked up about that?

Some are passionate about one side of an issue while others are equally passionate about the opposite side. How can that be?

Toward the end of the day, I even saw people who were passionate about rules, for goodness sake! Can you tell I’m not a rules person?

Other people’s passions that we do not share, can be frustrating and annoying. But isn’t passion exactly what we want to see in people of faith?

I am reminded of the words the prophet Jeremiah used when he tried to stop speaking the words God had given him, “within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9 NRSV). 

As I watch all this unfold at General Conference, I'm becoming aware that I don’t always recognize my own passion as passion. While I consider another's passion irrational, I see mine as the logical, obvious choice. I, of course, see my position as reasonable, clearly what the Bible/church/Discipline/etc. says I/we should do.

Let’s keep that in mind as we observe General Conference 2016. We are witnessing God-given passion, even when we have no idea why, even when we completely disagree.

United Methodists are passionate people. For many, remaining quiet would be like a fire shut up in their bones.

God speaks powerfully to hearts. May we have the courage, respect, and humility to listen to what God is saying in each person's passion.

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

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