ZEAL WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE
“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they might be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:1-4.
How dangerous is zeal without knowledge and sincerity without truth!
Look what those who are zealous for their religious beliefs are doing to those who do not believe as they do. Look what the apostle Paul did to believers in Jesus before he came face to face with Jesus and learned the truth about Him. Look at what Hitler did to the Jews because of his zeal and the zeal of those he brainwashed into believing that they were vermin and needed to be exterminated.
According to Paul, the Jews themselves believed they could achieve righteousness by observing the law. In their zeal, they tried to bulldoze out of existence everyone who believed that Jesus was the way and followed Him as the way to God. In their sincere conviction that they were right, they became guilty of breaking the very law they were trying to uphold.
How could they justify hatred and murder as God’s way of dealing with those who did not believe as they did? Just as Jesus said, they were manifesting the very characteristics of their father the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning.
Whatever the outward circumstances might be, behind every national and international conflict lies the battle between religion and truth. People will kill and people will die for what they believe, whether it be lies or truth. Take the ongoing conflict between Muslim and Jew in the Middle East, or the battle between moderate and radical factions of this religion or that religion. Take the laws that are passed in parliament to wrest the freedom from people to practise their faith according to their conscience. Who or what is the source of all this animosity; this hatred; this belief that you are my enemy if you do not believe as I do?
If we watch Jesus for a moment, we will notice that, in all His dealings with people, be they religious fanatic or weeping sinner, He spoke the truth and honoured their freedom to make their own decision regarding what He had said. Never did He put pressure on anyone to believe His word by force or emotion. Again and again, He brought people back to God’s word as the foundation for what He told them.
“It is written,” was His “slogan”. He used it to silence the devil in the wilderness when he tried to lure Him into acting independently of His Father. He used it to pull the religious opposition back to the true foundation of their beliefs and behaviour. He dismissed their accusations with contempt because they were based on prejudice, not on truth. The words He spoke were an echo of His Father’s words, faithfully spoken in obedience to Him.
This was His way of dealing with unbelievers: “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn him at the last day.” John 12:47, 48.
On every occasion He spoke the truth and gave His hearers the opportunity to believe or reject what He said. Upon them rested the responsibility and consequences of their choices.
How important is the knowledge of the truth as the foundation for what we believe! For the Jews, zeal without knowledge led them away from God and into condemnation instead of the righteousness they worked so hard to achieve. For those who trust in Jesus for His gift of righteousness as God has promised, they are fully accepted, declared not guilty and restored to the family as dearly loved sons and daughters of God.
This is God’s way; it is the truth upon which we can base our lives with all the zeal in the world and, with a good conscience, we can invite others into His family as well.
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