I’m a baby boomer who remembers when it was admirable to be zealous. You could be zealous for your team, your school, your family, your country. You were even encouraged to be zealous for your schoolwork or for your job.
My brothers and I read the adventures of Jack Armstrong, all-American boy, who was a zealous patriot. True Grit newspapers urged us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps—whatever those were and whatever that meant—and to be zealous about whatever we set our minds to.
I became a believer in Jesus, and to me being zealous about my faith didn’t mean becoming strident or overbearing or judgmental. It meant being serious about it, practicing the Golden Rule, loving, caring, sharing.
I became a writer, and to me, becoming zealous about my craft meant honing it and exercising it, writing (a lot), and sharing my values through my writing. For several years I was the writer behind the Gil Thorp comic strip—about the quintessential zealous high school coach and mentor to young men.
Apparently, being zealous is one thing. Being a zealot is another.
If you’re zealous, you’re single-minded, can focus on the task at hand, can give yourself to a project or a cause and see it through. But if you’re a zealot, you’re a fanatic, a fundamentalist, excessive, radical, warlike, ardent and violent.
Beware losing your standing as one who has zeal and becoming known as a zealot.
That is what has become of Jesus of late. He is no longer the Christ of the Gospels, the God-man come to lay down His life for the sins of the world.
No, according to Christian cum Muslim Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, now we’re to see Jesus as a rabble rousing troublemaker, a political animal misunderstood by two millennia of believers like myself.
Let me be clear. I am neither theologian nor scholar. I wouldn’t dare try to match brain cells with the likes of Dr. Aslan. I suspect I would enjoy chatting with him and might even like the man.
But I’m not ready to reassign Jesus to mere mortality based on Aslan’s speculations. I remain zealous about the Jesus who claims to be the Christ, claims found in writings that prove themselves sacred by the fulfillment of hundreds of their own ancient prophecies.
One of the great privileges of writing the Left Behind series of novels based on those prophecies was coming to understand the astronomical odds against their being fulfilled in every detail.
And in researching my latest novel, I, Saul, based on the life of the Apostle Paul, I learned much from pastor/scholar Dr. James S. MacDonald about the abundance of evidence for the veracity of Scripture.
As the great missionary Paul wrote to the church at Colossae: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
As a zealous believer, I feel it behooves me to be armed with the knowledge and evidence to refute false claims about Jesus of Nazareth.