Galatians (part 6) and terrorism

As my Arabic class progresses, we are building our vocabularies. Arabic is very similar to Hebrew, in that many nouns are derived from root verbs. For example of derivation, the verb “walk” makes nouns like: a walker, a walk-a-thon, a cakewalk, etc. In English, you can take an average verb and derive at most 7 nouns from it. In Arabic, you can make 13! So quite often, we have a new word that is closely related to another word we’ve already learned or at least heard somewhere on the news. We learned other day that the word for “grammar” means “the rules” but in it’s singular form, “rule base” the word is Al-Qaida. We learned that the Taliban takes its name from the noun for “students.” From these simple everyday words like grammar and students, terrorist groups have adopted a name and created a reputation.

Galatians 4:17-18 talks about terrorism. Okay, maybe not terrorism, but the zeal that initiates it. “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” (4:17-18)

Terrorism is absolutely evil, but it begins with people who are passionate about seeing political change. That passion unravels into an unbridled fervor, to the point that murder and mayhem seem like an easy price to pay for a political agenda. It’s a corrupted zeal.

The entire epistle of Galatians serves as a warning against a corrupted gospel. Teachers in the Galatian church were forcing Jewish laws and traditions onto new believers who were set free from that law by the redemptive work of Christ. Freedom from the restraints of Jewish law is a major theme throughout the six chapters, and in chapter 4, Paul speaks of the motivation of those Jewish leaders, saying that the keys to zeal are this: the purpose and the persistence. Is the purpose worthy? Are you willing to live by this zeal all the time and not just when it serves your own interests?

“Zeal” is used only 21 times in the whole Bible; zealous is used 14 times. Paul describes himself as zealous in his fervor for Judaism before he came to Christ, using his religious zeal as a reason for persecuting the early Church--not so much different than a terrorist! It makes the perfect example for the verses that Paul states here. Zeal is not a bad emotion; it’s the focus of one’s zeal that presents the problem. Zeal is no excuse for sin.

Ariel Rainey