Much has happened in the world in recent days and weeks. Much evil that has taken center stage in the world’s eyes. Multiple, coordinated terror attacks in one nation across the ocean. Isolated attacks in other geographies. Many people caught in the crossfire; some dead, others injured. All in the name of the god of a particular faith.
I am sure You are weeping more than anyone, Lord.
I was in a conversation recently with some who were discussing these events. Their conclusion startled me. They said the problem was fervency. If only people didn’t believe whatever they believe so fervently, things like this wouldn’t happen. When they went on to lump “fervent Christians” into the same batch of “dough,” I was stunned. If only Christians weren’t so fervent, they asserted, others who don’t believe (including atheists) wouldn’t be sohateful toward them.
“‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ … Then they understood that He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6,12)
I disagreed with those who were advocating this “anti-fervency” doctrine. I said fervency isn’t the issue; it’s thebelief that people are fervent about. Fervent belief in a faith that says “Believe or I must/will kill you” leads to one outcome. Fervent faith in You, Jesus, says: “I will love you and do good for you, even if you are my enemy.” Can anyone really conclude that fervency in these two faiths is equally problematic?
I get it. I know we who believe in You, Lord, often miss the mark. We are imperfect — sometimes, woefully so — in our understanding and/or our execution of what You ask of us when You say, “Come, follow Me.” And, granted, many in history have used (and abused) Your name as a “reason” to hate and overpower others in the quest for their kingdom to come on earth (not Yours). At the risk of oversimplifying: How else can the Crusades and the Inquisition be explained?
But it seems to me that fervency in You, Lord, is not the problem at all. The problem is the exact opposite — a lackof fervency.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)
What would it look like if we whose hearts have been opened to You actually loved You, Lord with all of our hearts and souls — our minds, wills, and emotions? You. Not some impersonal, universal force. Not just another “good” and “wise” teacher or mentor. But You, Jesus… God in the flesh. The One who died for us, paying the death penalty we deserved. The One who rose from the dead so that we, too, could truly live. The One who made us and chose us. Who loves us beyond reason and pursues us without reservation. Who has promised Yourself to us, now and forever.
What would it look like if You were first and foremost in our daily and lifetime priorities? If we devoted ourselves to knowing You intimately? To loving You with undivided hearts, letting no other person or thing steal any of our affections away from You? If we spent so much time in Your Presence, we began to think and feel and talk and act like You? If the deepest desire of our hearts was to please You with all that we are and all that we do?
What would all of that look like in the tangible ways we would pursue You, Jesus… and the tangible outcomes that would result? Would that, too, make the 6:00 news? Maybe… but in a much different way than “unbelievers” shot in their workplaces or on the street.
Fervency for You, Lord. Less of it? No… I want more of it! MUCH MORE!!!
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer… Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone… If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:11-12,14,17-18,20,21)
Fervency for You? Yes, Lord… I want MUCH MORE!!!