The longer I live, the more people I meet who are afraid to live with passion.
Regarding the bibliophile, they're afraid to love books wholeheartedly. They're afraid to enter into stories as if they are real. They're afraid to admit that books are important to them.
They're afraid of making books an idol.
So they live a passionless life. Books are dispensable, stories are just that--stories. In the grand scheme of things, 'real' life is way better than anything they could find between the pages. And of course, even though they really like to read, they would never set that ahead of God. If He called them to give up every single book in their library, they would do it without a second thought. Somehow, we have missed the memo that vigilance against sin does not equal fear, and indifference does not equal fearing fearing God alone.
What is Idolatry?
According to the very handy Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary, idolatry is:
1. The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.
2. Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.
It is true that we are all to prone to worship the wrong things, and we need to be very vigilant about this, constantly evaluating where our affections lie. If we set up books as an idol, then yes, we are on the wrong road, and need to get back to the worship of the one, true God as quickly as possible.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
I think any bibliophile goes through an ebb and flow. Though it is hard to admit, there are times when the things of this earth seem so very much nearer, and brighter, and deeper, then the God whom we cannot see. It is in such times that we must draw closer to the Lord through self-discipline, even when the inclination doesn't follow. We must plead with Him to open our blind eyes to the richness and glory, and deep, satisfying history of His salvation in the greatest of all Books .
Resisting idolatry is a discipline. The Greek word for "put to death" means
3499 nekróō (from 3498 /nekrós, corpse-like, lifeless") – to view as a corpse, i.e. without life; to regard (but not "make") as dead, inoperative; to mortify, deprive of life or energizing power; (figuratively) to cut off (sever) everything that energizes (especially sin in Col 3:5).
In other words, we must sever our idols of everything that gives them life.
And in that same verse, the Greek behind the phrase 'evil desires' or 'evil passions' is the following:
3806 páthos (from 3958 /pásxō, "having strong feelings") – properly, raw, strong feelings (emotions) which are not guided by God (like consuming lust).
It is not wrong to have strong feelings. But they must be guided by God. And here is where we fall into error: the main problem with bibliophiles is that half of them have strong feelings, but are not guided by God, and the others refuse to have strong feelings in the first place.
In the world of literature, how do we have strong feelings guided by God?
What is Passion?
Again, pulling out Webster's 1828 dictionary, we find that passion is:
1. The feeling of the mind, or the sensible effect of impression; excitement, perturbation or agitation of mind; as desire, fear, hope,joy, grief,love, hatred. The eloquence of the orator is employed to move the passions.
2. Zeal; ardor; vehement desire.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)
The Greek word for Love in this instance means 'esteem'. Our esteem must be genuine, and without hypocrisy. Also. this word means 'moral preference'. We must not disguise our moral preferences, and hide what we truly esteem from people. Also, this instance of love (agape) is often use to refer to "What God loves". Therefore, we can take the first sentence to mean "We must genuinely love what God loves, not hypocritically pretend we do." That's a lot to pack into one little sentence, but there's more.
"Hate what is evil." This is no weak language here. Abhor. Abominate. Detest.
"Cling to what is good."-- 'Cling' in this phrase means literally to be 'glued together' with what is good. Glue is a strong bond that requires breaking one of the objects glued to get them apart. Figuratively, 'cling' in this verse means a close, 'soul-knit' friendship.
If two souls are knit together, that means they are one, and their eternal fate cannot be separated. Therefore, according to the figurative sense of the Greek here, we should be so closely knit to good that our fate is the same fate as that of the cause of Christ. That when good is affected, we are affected. When good is tormented, we are tormented. When good is triumphant, we are triumphant too. In otherwords, we cling to good so much we cannot escape from it.
What is good?
The Greek word for this phrase is 'agathos'. This means: "intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether it be seen to be so or not, the widest and most colorless of all words with this meaning. According to the word study: "(agathós) describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in their life, through faith."
Therefore, we must genuinely love what God loves, abhor that which is evil, and irrevocably attatch ourselves to any good that originates from God.
As a bibliophile, our goal is to read books that are good, with the kind of goodness that originates from God. But we are not to hold them loosely--to be afraid that good books will call us away from the Father. We are to be irrevocably attached to every good thing that He sends us. This is not idolatry. This is, according to the Greek, sweet fellowship--the kind of fellowship you would feel towards a kindred spirit.
If your calling is to teach and reform in the area of literature, then you need to have zeal. Not the fan-girly kind. I'm talking about the earnest kind.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.--Romans 12:11
"Never be lacking in zeal." If the Lord has called us to love books, to read them, perhaps even to write them, to proclaim a message of reform in the literary culture, then the Greek in this verse tells us that "For the believer, 4710 /spoudḗ ("speedy diligence"[or "never be lacking in zeal"]) means quickly obeying what the Lord reveals is His priority. This elevates the better over the good – the more important over the important – and does so with earnest swiftness (intensity).
We are to serve the Lord in our talent for reading and writing with earnest and swift intensity.
"Keep your spiritual fervor"-- "to be deeply committed to something, with the implication of accompanying desire – 'to be earnest, to set one's heart on, to be completely intent upon' "
According to this Scripture, we must literally 'boil in spirit' about what God has called us to do.
To sum up part one, many of us who love books are afraid of turning books into an idol. And we should be. We must not adore or worship anything but God himself. However, we must be extremely careful that we do not lose our passion just because we're trying not to be idolatrous.
Bibliophiles must read that which is good with passion. We are called to love good to our very soul, and for those of us called to serve the Lord more specifically with our reading and writing of books, we are to obey Him with swift and earnest zeal.
As long as we genuinely love what the Lord loves, and abhor that which He calls evil in the books we read, idolatry will have no place in our hearts.
Read with passion for the Kingdom of Christ.