We Share One Life, We Are One Life
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*Buddha, Troy Mason, Flickr
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In May 2000 a British man was fined for eating a Kit Kat candy bar. Kevin Storey was driving to a christening. A policeperson pulled him over. The officer was concerned that Storey had been driving while eating a two-fingered, chocolate Kit Kat. According to the officer, although the Kit Kat had been unwrapped by Storey's wife, it presented a hazard to other road users. The mouth-watering combination of crisp crunchy wafer and rich milk chocolate could distract attention from the road. Storey was cautioned and fined; the fine was later withdrawn on appeal.
The policeperson was unbelievably strict, imposing the letter of the law in a way that many would conclude is ridiculous. This is commonly the way with legalistic zeal. It focuses on minor things and blows them way out of proportion. Yet, this errant zeal can be among more open-minded persons as well as less open-minded persons. I have seen fundamentalism as clearly among liberals, for example, as among conservatives: both zealous, both rigid, sometimes, if not usually. Prayerfulness-of-Heart is an antidote to this misinformed and misdirected zeal.
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Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a Congregational pastor and key figure in the 18th-Century "Great Awakening," focused on the role of affections in religious devotion. Central is zeal. He wrote:
The kind of religion that God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless "wouldings"~those weak inclinations that lack convictions~that raise us but a little above indifference. God, in his word, greatly insists that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and that our hearts be engaged vigorously in our religion.
Edwards referred to Roman 12.11. This Scripture has: "Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart" (NCV). The King James Version says this very well: "Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord." We are to be doing our work as a spiritual offering to Grace, and doing it with all the heart, or fervency of spirit.
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Zeal in itself is neither good nor bad. Zeal is simply an intensity of affection. Zeal is good or not based on the intent and direction of the fervency, as well as the state of the zealous person.
The opening story shows how zeal can~as it often does~become servant of a legalistic mindset. Such extremes, I fear, lead many in faith or spirituality to go in the other extreme and be lukewarm or cold~as though it is a virtue to make sure we do not take our faith with passion.
The writer of Titus addresses zeal as connected with the intent of Christ giving his life for us: "[W]ho gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (2.14, NCV). Here, we are not only to do good works, we are to do good works from a fount of ardent passion, holy affections.
This zeal is seen in the word history of the word "zeal." The Indo-European means "to be excited, praise." That arises from the Old Slavic "to be furious."
True spiritual faith is anything but lukewarm or cold. Graceful living is to be overflowing with ardent love, with holy passion, with enthused feelings. This, for some persons, will be expressed more outward; other persons will express it in more inward and subtle ways. Still, each of us expresses zeal in following Life; to follow Christ is to be deeply in Love with life.
Finally, some might think being contemplative is a way counter to religious zeal. No. Contemplation refines zeal, purifying affections at their root source, so love can flow from a more unself-centered, unself-conscious intent, contemplation having made a more direct connection, in the bridal union of Love, between the soul and the Light-Within.
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We are each a lovely, pure Rose, in the Garden of Grace.
The Sacred in Me bows to the Sacred in You