Dearest Members of Bethlehem,
“Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.” -Romans 12:11
What in the world is “zeal?” Well, it means to do something with, “great energy or enthusiasm.” So, Saint Paul encourages us, “do not ‘lag’ in zeal?” Lag? Yep, that’s an important choice of words. To “lag” necessarily means that there are others engaged in the journey with you, if you’re “lagging,” then you’re not keeping pace. Can we really be expected to measure our level of enthusiasm with our siblings in Christ? Well…
“Be ardent in spirit…”. “Ardent?” Another strong word, it means to be, “passionate.” But what does that mean? Being passionate about something suggests that there’s a certain level of conviction involved, a strong belief driving your efforts. Is Saint Paul really suggesting that our spirits be filled with a fiery passion as we go about our lives of discipleship? Wouldn’t it be better to be a little more “chill” with this whole thing? Well…
I’ll concede… there’s a danger here. Christians could easily read these words from verse 11, begin to think them through, and then come to the determination that they need to be a little more pushy with their faith. Yes, if we were just a little more assertive in sharing our message and perspective with others, then we’d be making great progress.
The only trouble is… that’s not what Paul said, it really isn’t even what he is primarily concerned with in this verse. At this point in his letter to the Romans, Paul has a very pointed agenda. And it could be boiled down to this: less judgment of the neighbor and more service to the neighbor.
So, what does Saint Paul want us to be so enthusiastic and passionate about? Our service to the Lord, and our service to the Lord is really service to the neighbor. This is a refreshing perspective. We, the faithful, we’re the ones that need to be convinced.
Yes indeed, because in just a few weeks it will all begin, the intense time of planning preceding our programmatic year. Far from being a burden, it’ll be so much fun to embrace this time of “zeal” and all the “ardent” spirits that gather to do this important work… trusting that God will offer meaningful opportunities for service in the weeks and months ahead.
Question for reflection: In what ways has your faith changed you, shaped the way live your life, informed the decisions you make?
Yours in Christ,
Gracious Lord, you create us anew from day to day.Your grace and wisdom molds us that we might be a new creation, an inspired body of believers that fosters renewal in our families and communities. Bless and encourage us in this faith-filled endeavor. We pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.