August 15, 2014.
In today’s religious world we see a ton of zeal and passion. These are in many cases two sides of the same coin. I think zeal and passion are two traits that every Christian should have, as it really solidifies your confidence in Christ. Without passion, why would one practice Christianity? Without zeal, how does one further the kingdom? It doesn’t take long at all to flip through the pages of the Holy Scriptures to find numerous examples of godly men and women who all had these two traits in common. Many great works and countless souls have been saved through the zealous work of passioned Christians. I am reading a book on zeal currently, however, and the author makes a valid point that I have made many times in the past. It all stems from the question below: do zeal and passion imply truth?
Whereas zeal and passion are very important, if not vital, to our walk with Christ, I think a simple case study in the word can reveal that zeal and passion do not necessarily imply truth. Many times today do we look at the things that some one is doing and think “they sure do love God, look at all they do for Him!” and then proceed to assume that what they teach is correct. This is a dangerous attitude to take. Saul of Tarsus, known also as the apostle Paul, was a very passionate man. What he did, he did with all his heart. As a young Jew, he studied at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most renowned Jewish Rabbi’s of his day. As his story continues, we see that Paul had what he himself called a zeal for the living God, the one true God who we still serve today. He took this zeal and passion and applied it to his life, making it his mission to rid the world of this new Jewish sect that was known as The Way as it was threatening his beloved religion and by proxy his God. If there was any man who had zeal and passion, it was Paul (both before and after his conversion). Listen to his own testimony:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”
But did that make Paul right in persecuting Christians? After all, he wasn’t serving a false god. Was zeal and passion along enough to vindicate him before the God he loved? His testimony continues:
“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’”
Of course the answer to my question above is no. Christ did not see Paul’s works against the church, though in zeal, as good in any way. He stopped him in his tracks, literally. Paul was then brought to Damascus, taught by Ananias and baptized into Christ:
“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’”
Paul’s zeal and passion was a character trait. Even when he started preaching the gospel, he did it with enthuasism. His manner of life in the way he carried out what he was passionate about didn’t seem to change much. But his teaching had. And so, Paul quickly became a very strong leader in the Christian world, especially among the gentiles whom he was sent to teach. Much of what we know as Christianity today we owe to Paul (well, we owe it all to God, of course, who used Paul in a dramatic way). But his testimony does give a pretty clear answer to wether zeal and passion imply truth. Paul was both very zealous and very passionate. But he was wrong. (Yes, I know the equation below is not exactly fitting to the situation, but you get the point. Just take the “does not equal” sign to mean “does not necessarily equal.”)
So what is the take home from this lesson? Should we be discouraged by our zeal? Should we scrutinize others just because they are zealous? Certainly not. However, the lesson is that we should not assume the teachings of a zealous person are correct just because they have passion. Passion alone is not enough to imply absolute truth. What is necessary is the word of God. We need to be like the Borean Christians:
“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
We need zeal and passion, but we need it in the light of God’s word, for without it, all our words and actions are next to meaningless. If you are a math person, I want to take this equation motif to its fullest extent (if you are not, feel free to skip down as there is really no new information, just information in math form because I’m kinda a nerd… haha). If we define a God’s plan as a function of x:
and then insert zeal and passion into it as a function of x, then we get truth:
Again, it’s actually pretty hard to relate math functions and practical concepts so the above equations aren’t in any way perfect (Look, I’m trying, okay? I thought it looked really cool and I want to use my awesome new app for writing mathematical equations, so I went with it), but they do give a fair overview of what I am trying to say in this post. Hopefully it didn’t confuse you too much. If it did, forget the math and focus on the words…
So, are you zealous? Are you passionate? If so, that is fantastic. Now, are you teaching the right things? I believe we all could benefit from some self reflection on a regular basis. Let us help one another as we journey towards the upward calling of Christ.
Suggested Daily Reading: Acts 9, 22, Galatians 1, Revelation 3.
The Lord give you wisdom.