“Because of sin, every man on this earth has a propensity to be passive.” Brian Frost
Passivity Is A Product of the Fall
Let’s be honest, Adam dropped the ball. When God created him, He gifted Adam with purpose. The fact is, both man and woman were made God’s representatives on the earth, image bearers of the Creator, with characteristics that only they possessed among all of creation. But each was created unique, by design, to show a more full picture of the One who had made them. And Adam, made first by the Genesis account, was given the direct and implied responsibility to instruct, protect, and provide.
We have to assume that in those first days, Adam did this with grace and with ease. In the garden, before the fall, man and God enjoyed perfect, unhindered relationship. And likewise, man and woman, as well as man and creation enjoyed perfect relationship. There was no hint of fear, shame, regret, anger, or hesitancy to live and act the way God had made them. But three chapters into this perfect world, things went terribly awry. Satan tempted Eve, planting a seed of doubt concerning God’s goodness, and His kindness, by questioning His command. Adam was present… and did nothing, failing to instruct and protect Eve, and even worse, he participated in the choice to disobey. Man’s first act of passivity came at a pivotal time in the history of mankind, and as a result nothing would be same.
But before we’re too hard on Adam, we would have done the same and we do on a regular basis. Sin causes us to become inward (me) focused. When we shift our gaze away from God, we begin to process all of life with us in the center. We actively pursue our own glory and fulfillment at the expense of others, and we only engage in endeavors that serve us and advance our own agendas. This leads to passivity in areas where we simply don’t see any direct benefit for us. We focus on what we most love, to the neglect of other things. And when we most ourselves we work every angle to satisfy our craving at the expense of those around us.
Here is the irony of much of our passivity. We tend to be proactive in work, and even in play. Most men assert themselves in their vocation, and even in their leisure. In fact, many of us build our identity primarily around our profession or our hobbies. Where we tend to shy away from leading and serving is in the home and the church. Why? Satan is no fool. If he can keep fathers disengaged, or absent at home, and men disengaged, disenfranchised, or absent from the church he erodes the opportunity for the flourishing of the gospel, and he robs families and churches of the ability to display the power of the gospel.
Passivity Is Conquered By Gospel
But there is hope. In fact, we don’t even get out of Genesis 3 before God, in His grace in mercy, gives us (and Adam and Eve) a seed of hope that will eventually grow into a tree of LIFE. In the midst of the curses made by God following the fall, God makes a promise that Satan will be crushed under the foot of the offspring of Eve, a promise of One to come. Reading the rest of the Bible, we trace this promised salvation forward until it culminates with Jesus Christ.
While Jesus may be called meek and compassionate, Jesus is not passive. At the beginning of His early ministry, the Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert where He was met by Satan and tempted in the same way that Adam and Eve were tempted in Genesis 3 (Matthew 4). There is the account in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, Satan questioned God the Father’s words, and questioned God’s love for Jesus and His goodness toward Him. Unlike Adam, Jesus faced Satan with firmness–sending Satan away, and solidifying Jesus’s resolve to accomplish what He had come to do. While this account may seem interesting but not important, it is foundational for us as believers. In that moment, Jesus believed God, understood who He was, and showed His resolve to do what the Father told Him.
Our hope for conquering passivity rests firmly in Jesus’ power to do so, and in our life being hidden in Him. When we understand who we are, because of Christ, we can begin to understand the depth of God’s presence in power in our lives. With the gospel as our foundation, we can move toward overcoming passivity in practical ways.
Practical Steps To Fight Passivity and Be Engaged
Take Ownership of Your Sin (Admit, Confess, Repent)
You have to lead the way in confessing your sin and repenting. And first step to doing so, is admitting you have sin. Guys, we know admitting wrong or fault seems to imply weakness. But the gospel turns all of this on it head. James tell us, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16). And John reminds us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) No one is perfect (except of course Jesus) and that’s the point. If you are living under the fantasy that you have no sin, get your head out of the sand. God is gracious, and He has made payment for our faults, so that we can be freed from the bondage of our sin to live for Him. The key to overcoming our tendency to be passive is to start by admitting we are imperfect and need a Savior.
Be Present (Physically and Mentally)
One of the most practical ways to overcome passivity at home is simply to be present. Men, if you are married, show up at home, immediately after work, ready to step into your the most important role you will fill today as husband and father.
Be all in when you walk through the door. That likely will mean putting down your cell phone (perhaps even leaving it in the car till bedtime). Leave your laptop in your briefcase and don’t turn on the television. There is little that screams “I don’t care!” like someone who is present physically but completely checked out mentally. Jesus gives us a better way. He was present and attentive in the lives of his disciples and the normal, everyday people he interacted with.
Don’t come in ready to rest and be served because you have slaved and labored all day long. Come in with joy in your heart that God has given you a wife and family to love fully and sacrificially.
Serve Your Spouse and Your Children
Another great way to overcome passivity is to actually reorient your life around purposefully serving others. Paul tells us in Philippians, “...in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). Serving others works best when you to listen well, are attentive to their lives and respond to needs in a timely manner. If you’re a husband and you have kids, be involved in your children’s school work, and their instruction and discipline. When you step into the home at the end of the day, disconnect from your vocation and engage in home life. Help finish dinner, or homework, clean dishes and help with bedtimes. And show respect to your spouse in front of your children and teach and expect the same from them (you kids).
Serve Your Church
Most research statistics tell us that our churches are filled with a higher percentage of women than men. Women are more likely to pray on a daily basis and they are more likely to attend a place of worship on a weekly basis. There are numerous theories on why these statistics are the norm. Perhaps we need to be reminded that the Christian life is not a vacation in flowery fields, but a invitation to engage in a cosmic battle. There is much beauty and compassion in the gospel, but the God who made is also righteous, just, and to be feared. Moses said, “The Lord our God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”(Deuteronomy 4:23). You can certainly find adventure climbing a mountain, or braving the rapids on a raging river, but serving God and His church is equally compelling when you understand the depth of the price Christ paid to rescue you and the reality of what is at stake for those who reject Him.
A call to follow Jesus is a call to love what He loves, and He loves His church (Ephesians 5:25). A call to follow Jesus is a call to serve His body (the church).
Be Active and Joyfully in Worship
David, the King, led his people in worship (2 Samuel 6). He was a mighty warrior whose success was unequalled among His people. And yet David’s heart seemed most content when he was praising God and leading his people to do the same. Pastor and author, John Piper says, “All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and his Son among all the peoples of the earth.” We see the truth of this at every turn in the scriptures, a call for all of creation to sing God’s praise (Psalm 66:1; 97:1,117:1 just to cite a few). If this is the clarion call, to look upon God and worship Him in wonder then why on earth do we look so somber in our church gatherings? Perhaps we need to catch a greater vision of what God has done through Jesus Christ. At any rate, the least we can do is be present and participate. You don’t have to be able to sing, to joyfully engage in the worship of God.
Pray, by its very act, is admittance of dependency. When we pray, we are praying because we recognize our inability to do something, overcome a situation, or change something by our own strength. It’s a confession of our need for God to act. If you know you have a tendency to be passive, pray. Confess it to God and ask Him to help you overcome the temptation to be distant and disengaged.
Throughout the pages of the Bible we see a picture of Jesus that is strong, focused, resolute, unafraid, calm in the face of danger, and compassionate, gracious and merciful. This is standard that He holds us to. No where in the scriptures does God lower his expectations for His people because of sin or grace. Instead, He raises them. In Matthew 5, Jesus challenges everything that the Jewish people of His day understood about the law and calls them to a level of holiness that was seemingly unattainable (Matthew 5:48).
And apart from Him and the work of the Spirit it was.
And that was the point.
We need a Savior.
Because of the fall, we naturally trend toward sinfulness, selfishness, isolation, and passivity. God calls us to something more compelling and glorious. When we believe on Jesus in faith, God replaces our brokenness, our shame, our fear and our tendency to be disenfranchised, with the vibrancy and the wholeness of Christ. Let’s embrace it and engage.