The zeal that heals
Popular thought tells us to follow our passion. Yet, it’s easy to be passionately wrong! We can fall head over heels for someone who turns out to be a complete mismatch, fixate on one side of a political question that has a thousand nuances, or be so convinced of our religion’s rightness that we commit all kinds of wrong in order to force it on others.
A Bible story (see Acts 9:1–20) exemplifies the latter. Saul, a zealous Jew, passionately persecuted fellow Jews who followed the teachings of Jesus. Yet, Saul’s heart must have been primed to live the life of healing-not-hating espoused by the early Christians he hounded, because that’s what happened. Startled by a spiritual vision that opened his eyes to the wrongness of his self-righteous actions, he lost his sight, until a Christian named Ananias opened his eyes not just physically, but also spiritually—to the power of Christ—and he literally saw anew.
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But even as his deeper, spiritual blindness was overturned, Saul’s zeal didn’t diminish. It was instead elevated from stridently desiring to change others to zealously allowing himself to be transformed by the Christ, the spiritual idea of God that he was now embracing. The Christ-spirit, in turn, empowered him to boldly, but lovingly, spread far and wide the good news of humanity’s redemption through Christ.
This divergence of merit in how zeal finds expression is pinpointed in a glossary of Bible terms in Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Using key synonyms that identify aspects of the divine nature, the Discoverer of Christian Science describes a spiritually motivated zeal as “the reflected animation of Life, Truth, and Love.” Conversely, materially minded zeal is “blind enthusiasm; mortal will” (p. 599).
The first of these was exemplified by Christ Jesus. Animated by Life’s divine energy, by Truth that always perceives God’s perfect creation, and by Love that holds all humanity in its heart, Jesus healed those suffering from severe sickness and transformed hardened sinners. Such God-reflecting animatedness still heals. That is, it brings to light, for us and others, spiritual reality, including the health and harmony native to everyone’s nature as God’s offspring.
Prayer steers our thoughts, words, and actions toward Christly zeal, which is inseparable from a devotion to being of benefit to others.
The same can’t be said about being blindly enthusiastic or acting willfully. These traits move our lives, and the impact of our lives on others, in the wrong direction. We lose sight of life as it really is—divine Life, God, who is ever-present, all-blessing Love. And we lose sight of what we each are as the expression of the Life that is Love. So it makes sense to pray—to silence human emotion and will—and ensure that it’s the influence of all-embracing Love impelling us forward before letting fervent thoughts form our words or deeds.
Such prayer steers our thoughts, words, and actions toward Christly zeal, which is inseparable from a devotion to being of benefit to others. This is key when endeavoring to impress upon others the blessings of one’s faith, which Jesus expected his followers to do. He said: “Everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15, 16, GOD’S WORD Translation).
A lamp isn’t put on a lamp stand to impress others by being visible to them but to bless others by creating visibility for them. So, we can check our zeal for sharing our light against Jesus’ timeless guidance. Does what we think, say, and do result in others experiencing the healing impact of understanding spiritual reality and lead to their heartfelt praise for healing’s source, God?
To ensure that this criterion is satisfied, our key contribution is an inner zeal—a continuous, fervent commitment to rise above our own mistaken material perceptions of reality. Then the light we inherently reflect as divine Love’s spiritual image will shine through our lives and illumine practical opportunities to lovingly offer others inspiration that heals rather than harms.
As Saul discovered through the spiritual growth that led to him becoming the Apostle Paul, this Christ light reaches and liberates even those trapped in self-imprisoning passions. That’s true whether these play out in poor relationship choices or in political, religious, or other zealotry. Like Saul, everyone has a heart inherently primed to come alive to, and be animated by, the all-embracing divine Life and Love that injure none and benefit all. We can be fervent in our desire to help that happen.
Tony Lobl, Associate Editor
GOD’S WORD®. © 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society. Used by permission.