Zeal can be a good thing in the Christian life. Zeal reflects positive energy and reveals spiritual enthusiasm. There is a difference between showing zeal and becoming a zealot. Zealots are scripturally identified as extremists. Extremists exist in every religion and always come with a warning sign. Extremists will do anything to protect their way of life as opposed to providing protection to those around them.
The church has a problem. In generations past, the church was a place of refuge and safety. It no longer represents either of these things for anyone other than avid church goers. To the outside world, whether we like it or not, the church has become a symbol of rejection and anger. Many churches use their zeal to shut out those who do not agree with them. They serve as judge, jury, and executioner for the seeking soul. They claim faith, but they live in fear towards their fellow man.
People are rejecting Christianity in record numbers. Younger adults are making a mass Exodus from American Christianity to eastern religions or to no religion at all. Some traditionalists try to blame the 20-30-year-old demographic for the demise of the church saying their loose morals make them feel uncomfortable in a church setting, so they’ve stopped attending. I’ve heard established Christians say that this generation has no regard for God and has turned their backs on Him.
I know this will come as no surprise to you that I disagree with the traditionalists’ theory. That’s not the way I see it at all. I believe this generation turned its back on the church; but not necessarily on God. I believe the church has turned its back on God to fulfill its own mission; a mission that has very little to do with spreading the Gospel message. Most churches and church people wear a banner that reads, “I am right. You are wrong. End of discussion.” Not very appealing to searching souls, huh?
I see people my kids’ age calling the church on their bluff. We proclaim salvation through Jesus, but we present judgment through our selfish lack of concern for the rest of the world. We seem to want to remain in a bubble of comfort instead of facing the needs, concerns and genuine pain in the real world.
We talk about how selfish the outside world is by their desire to shed any responsibility. We voice frustration over people demanding their rights. Well, until guns are involved and then our rights should be protected at all costs and we accept no responsibility to help reduce crime. All the while we want to quote clever sayings about how the unchurched shouldn’t focus on hypocrisy; after all, “none of us are perfect.”
While we may be very zealous about our religious beliefs and our ivory castles, zeal never saved anyone. Grace, love and forgiveness built on faith – now, those things are used by Christ to save people’s souls. If a specific church is not fulfilling its call to share Christ, it may be time to close its doors.
To the woman at the well, to the woman caught in adultery, to a terrorist named, “Saul,” Jesus reached into their hearts and accepted them as people. While He didn’t condone their sin, He did accept that life’s circumstances placed them in their sin. Today’s church seems to have forgotten the humble saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Our zeal crosses the line and we become zealots when we decide our religious arrogance is somehow above the line of God’s grace. Rejecting people and denying them access to our church does not promote Christ; it merely protects our religion. If we think for one moment Christ only came for those who attend church, we do not understand Christ’s mission at all. If we think that our reverse hypocrisy doesn’t have an effect, we are dead wrong.
So, who is losing the battle for souls? Those who have lost interest in church? Or those who see their wants as more important than God’s will? It’s time to sit in our comfortable pews on Sundays and ask ourselves, “Are we church people or Christ’s people?”
“He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:9-10
What are we waiting for?