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Mel Gibson`s movie, The Passion of the Christ, now showing in movie houses all over the nation, has produced much passion on both sides of the Christian faith. Some Jewish leaders and people loathe it and hotly oppose it as being anti-Semitic. Many believers in Christ love it and loudly promote it as a very Biblical and accurate portrayal of Jesus' suffering and death. I have not yet seen The Passion but plan to soon, and will reserve my own judgement on the film until then.  None of us can know for certain how passionate Mel Gibson is about Christ. But long before Gibson produced The Passion of the Christ, the Bible assures us the Christ was passionate about Mel Gibson (and the rest of us who live on planet Earth). His passion was expressed in a stunning act of self-giving which the Bible calls "a sacrifice" (Ephesians 5:2). Some have objected to the level of violence in The Passion as "disturbing." Thoughtful students of the New Testament and the process of scourging and crucifixion have long been disturbed about the level of violence Jesus suffered and endured for our sakes. He died an R-rated death. There was no non-violent way for the Son of God to die as a sacrifice for our sins. Isaiah 53 is the classic Old Testament portrayal of Jesus' suffering on the cross. Isaiah's words and phrases conjure up a violent and passionate picture: "stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, bruised, chastisement, stripes, oppressed, led as a lamb to the slaughter, travail, death." The cross of Christ proclaims pure passion. The word "passion" means a strong feeling and/or compelling emotion — it can mean ardent love, or ardent hatred. One of the greatest paradoxes of the cross is that while those who crucified Jesus were hating Him with a passion, God was loving them with a passion that knew no limits.

I am glad there is passion about The Passion. Perhaps The Passion of the Christ will move many to be more passionate about the Christ. Barbara C. Ryberg's Poem, "For Our Sakes," tells of Jesus' passion for us even as it challenges us to be more passionate about Him:

"He did not even own a bed,
 He had no place to lay His head.
 A cattle stall, His crib at birth;
He had no bank account on earth.
He laid the wealth of Heaven down
For earthly rags and thorny crown.
He passed the praise of angels by,
And came where men cry, `Crucify!'
He left a throne for you and me
And bore our sins upon a tree.
 So strong His claim, so clear His call
 — How dare I give Him less than all?"

 Passion about The Passion will likely soon pass. Let us pray that our passion for the Christ will be as permanent as His passion for us.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ