Tuesday, September 03, 2013


Being Zealous

Scot McKnight quotes at iMonk:
The freed do love others and, in so loving others, care for their moral development; zealots seek to control others, and therefore do not love others properly and do not lead others into moral development but into conformity.


Zealotry is to construct rules beyond the Bible and, in so doing, to consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment. What we have learned is that such a radical commitment is actually a fearful commitment rather than a life of freedom.

McKnight is right on in his diagnosis of what zealousness looks like. His observation that it comes from a desire to "consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment" and his other observations that it is born of insecurity are deeply insightful. But I do not think he sets this up well to provide a solution to zealotry. Given this presentation one would assume the answer to zealotry lies in dealing with the insecurity, but that is only part of the issue.

He observes elsewhere:
God’s people were not meant to be penguins, waddling all alike, but instead freed, separable, unique individuals who live in community.

I’ve never seen zealots who weren’t also judgmental; I’ve never seen those freed in the Spirit who were judgmental.
I shudder at his use of the word "judgmental" because people generally fail to distinguish between having sound judgement and being judgmental, and thus wisdom is often lost in the effort to avoid judgmentalism. But that is an aside.

The heart of his observation is that the judgmental do not understand God's vision for humanity. I think McKnight wants to make the case that we need to somehow love the judgmental into the kingdom. I disagree. Their judgmentalism will prevent them from ever experiencing that love.

Rather, I think the judgmental need to be taught and to experience the totality of God. That God is loving beyond understanding is part of that, but it is not all of it. We tend to think about balancing misunderstanding like one balances a scale, along a single axis. But God is not confined to a single axis like that. If we think two dimensionally then we run the risk of unbalancing the scale in the other direction. But if we deal with the entire multidimensional picture, the scale of concern becomes insignificant enough that balance on that scale just sort of takes care of itself.


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