Romans 10:1Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Maybe that verse appeals to my own cynicism. Personally I consider the word cynicism a human invention to escape terrifying realism, and vilify those who would espouse it. The reality is that humans have horrific evil in their hearts. Humans are capable of great good, true, through God’s grace. But our base instinct is to do evil, and follow it’s earthly rewards.
Suffice it to say I embrace the realism of that verse, where Paul attests that the Israelites do get very excited about God and his word, but they ultimately place their own sense of morality above God’s. It’s a very relevant verse in today’s world, with modern Christianity paling in comparison to its very foreign and uncomfortable roots. It’s that discomfort that zeal circumvents. Zeal blinds us to the reality that though it is good to be very happy and excited about God, it is more important that we are following his word.
I see many churches today that show extreme charisma, zeal, exuberance towards God. You’ll hear phrases at these churches such as “sold out for Jesus,” and you’ll see people closing their eyes, crying, raising their hands during worship. I don’t condemn any of these actions. People really do get that convicted and people really do completely commit their life to the service of God. The misstep, in my opinion, is mistaking any action, for righteous action, as long as it’s done at the Church or with its blessing. When you leave righteousness behind, and simply want to focus on working yourself into a lather ostensibly in the service of God, unfortunately you have no ability to work within God’s will. You’ve closed yourself off to him.
It’s important that we examine, scrutinize, and rebuke each other’s actions. It’s important we keep our brethren and our kin on the righteous path that God has laid out for it, of course in the most loving way that we can. We should never let our brother stumble into sin and ignore it because “I know he loves Jesus.” I have heard that phrase bandied about to excuse the gravest of sins in favor of actually addressing it with the person who did it. We don’t have to be perfect in order to call sin what it is, we just shouldn’t do it hypocritically. I for instance would never call anyone out on a problem with gluttony, as I do have a very sinful relationship with giant sized bags of cocoa pebbles. I don’t even look at the cereal aisle when I go into grocery stores.
In order to do that, I would first have to pluck the log from my own eye, so that I could help my brother to pluck the splinter from his. But on the subjects of drug abuse, marital infidelity, and divorce, I do have standing ground to address those subjects with my brethren when they have problems with it. If we are all in the search for righteousness in God’s will, that should never come as an insult. We should never tell a brother reaching out to “stay in their lane” or “mind their own business.”
Being your brothers’ keeper is the business you’re in if you are truly sold out to Jesus. Christ rebuked, challenged, and attacked those who’s will was out of step with God’s. He is our example as well as our savior.
So be wary of zeal. Be wary of the euphoria that I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of having at one point or another in our walk with God, that allows us to overlook sin in favor of human definitions of “compassion” and “love.”
It is not loving or compassionate to sit back while your loved one, your brethren destroy their lives by turning from God’s will. It’s the spiritual equivalent of seeing a Mac truck bearing down on someone and saying “Oh that’s none of my business.”
Help each other, and let each other be helped, and enjoy zeal when it is in righteousness, but cast it out when it is not.