July 11, 2023

Homily Three for the Epistle Reading on the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the 5th Sunday of Pentecost

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, 
but not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
This passage expresses a mentality that was not only valid in the time of the Apostle Paul, but is valid in every era. There are always people who are zealous for God, but without knowledge, the correct knowledge of God.

The word zeal indicates great zeal for the achievement of a goal and ends up expressing the person who shows excessive zeal for the realization of a desire, someone who competes with someone else. Many times it also indicates jealousy, it shows the person who is distinguished by jealousy. In this passage, zeal is stated in a negative sense and mainly expresses the fanaticism that manifests itself without knowing the whole truth, without having true knowledge of a thing and an event.

The Jews of the time of the Apostle Paul had such a zeal, who wanted to apply the Mosaic law, which was given by Christ in the Old Testament, and yet they were fighting Christ who became man to fulfill the law and save man. In fact, the Jews, out of zeal, went so far as to fight Christ, crucify Him, persecute the Apostles and the early Christian Church. The Apostle Paul himself experienced this excessive zeal of the Jews of his time, after they persecuted him from city to city. This zeal is not according to knowledge, but irrational zeal, it is fanaticism.

The Apostle Paul himself had experienced this. As a Jew he was "zealous of his father's traditions", but when God called him by His grace and revealed His Son to him, then he found the truth and became a zealot according to knowledge (Gal. 1:14).

Zeal for virtue is good when it is connected with truth and love, while zeal for vice, which develops into fanaticism, is distressing. The first Christians were zealous for spiritual goods (1 Cor. 8:12), they were zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14). However, within the Church there are also Christians who are distinguished by fanaticism and intolerance. What is the difference between bad and good zeal? Two points can be emphasized that distinguish blessed zeal from diabolical zeal.

The first is that zeal for dogmas is healthy, when one sees dogmas not as philosophical principles and as weapons to fight one's opponents, but as the fruit of revelation and experience which one accepts in order to meet God and be saved. Doctrines are not ideological principles to be used to exterminate enemies, but spiritual medicines.

The second point is that zeal with knowledge aims at the healing of man, at increasing love for God and man, at the pursuit of salvation, while zeal without knowledge uses the emotional and desiring part of the soul for warfare with people.

How blessed we are when we see Christians who have developed the desire to know God themselves, to develop and acquire the knowledge of God, who are distinguished by a great drive and a great love for God! And how sad we are, when we see Christians possessed by uncritical zeal, by stupid fanaticism, and behave like the fans in the stadiums and manifest all the passions of their souls, in the name of Christ and the truth!

Fanaticism is lack of truth, absence of real love, denial of peace of soul. When fanaticism takes over the soul of man, it turns the soul into a jungle, man behaves like a beast, manifests beastly actions that provoke men and grieve God. Fanaticism is zeal without knowledge. On the contrary, according to Saint Nektarios, the distinguishing characteristic of a zealot according to knowledge is "fervent love for God and his neighbor, meekness, religious tolerance, benevolence and gentleness of manners. The according to knowledge zealot bears the type of the true Christian."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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