It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
We don’t often use the word “zeal.” And when we do, we probably use it negatively to describe behavior that we find irrational. We are seldom comfortable with people who are openly zealous about something. But perhaps we should find this adjective more appealing, particularly since it reflects the psalmist’s attitude. After all, living with such passion for God that it leads us to worship devotedly is a good thing. Being comfortable must not always be our goal.
The tricky part lies in being sure that our love for God and each other is what motivates our zeal. Sometimes our passion turns into self-righteousness, and we wind up defending ourselves and our entrenched opinions. After all, God is all-powerful and needs no defense.
Some zealous pursuits, though, are clearly wrong. The good news is that we can discern zeal gone awry when it obviously contradicts Jesus’ command to love others. The bad news is that too often wayward zeal receives societal—and even religious—support.
Jesus is the ultimate example of One with zeal for God’s house. His passion for God motivated him to take on human form, to live and die for us. His zeal motivated him to minister to the poor and outcast, to heal the sick and comfort those on the margins of society. It also moved him to challenge religious leaders who were more concerned about rules and regulations than they were about people.
What kind of zeal consumes you?
What are some ways to make sure that the focus of our zeal is on worshiping God and caring for God’s creation?
Almighty God, use our hearts to love you and each other. Use our lips to praise you and support each other. Use our hands to serve you and help each other. Amen.