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Mark Wahlberg and Aristotle

Mark Wahlberg is in the news today for the wrong reasons.  You may know that the actor was booked on one of the flights out of Boston that crashed on 9/11, but changed his reservation to fly to the Toronto Film Festival.  In an interview to promote his latest movie, he claimed that if he had been on the doomed plane, he would have prevented the crash.  Families of 9/11 victims responded immediately to his thoughtless statement.  NowWahlberg has apologized for what he termed “irresponsible” and “insensitive” remarks.

The Lone Ranger saving the day may be naive, but he’s part of our cultural psyche. Yesterday we focused on the contrast between self-sufficiency and Christ-dependence.  Continuing that theme, I feel impressed today to share with you four statements which have been so meaningful to me over the years that I have kept them where I can see them in my study.  Now I’m rethinking three of them.

The first, by brilliant New Testament scholar William Barclay: “A man will never become outstandingly good at anything unless that thing is his ruling passion.  There must be something of which he can say, ‘For me to live is this.'”  True, but what should be my “ruling passion”?  Jesus was clear: to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).  Only then can I love my neighbor as myself (v. 31) and live a life that matters.

The second is a Hasidic statement that a friend shared with me years ago: “Everyone should carefully observe which way his heart draws him, and then choose that way with all his strength.”  Yes, but only if he loves God so passionately that the Spirit is drawing his heart.

The third: Aristotle defined “excellence” as “expressing your highest talent to its fullest measure.”  Yes, but in the leading and power of God’s Spirit.  Otherwise our words and actions accomplish nothing eternal.

The fourth is a biblical statement that Janet wrote out for me on a sheet of notepad more than 15 years ago: “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the laws and commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21, describing King Hezekiah).  I now see the wisdom of this description even more fully.  Note the order: first the king sought his God and then he worked wholeheartedly.  We can work with fervent passion, but if God is not working through us nothing we do will be significant.

What is your “ruling passion”?  Who is drawing your heart this morning?  For what purpose are you using your “highest talent”?  In what order will you seek God and work wholeheartedly today?

Dr. Denison’s cultural commentary originally appeared at http://www.denisonforum.org. It has been reposted here with permission of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture.

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