Apostolic zeal and religious fanaticism are two concepts that are often confused, but they have fundamental differences in their nature and approach. As a Catholic apologist, it is important to emphasize the significance of apostolic zeal as a virtue that calls us to spread the message of love, compassion, and redemption that Jesus Christ taught us. Through this apostolic zeal, believers seek to share our faith with respect and humility, guided by love for God and our fellow beings.
The Bible offers us several passages that highlight the value of apostolic zeal. One of the most notable examples is the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ Here, we see the mandate to actively and consistently spread the message of Christ.
Apostolic zeal is rooted in the conviction and passion to share the Gospel, but unlike religious fanaticism, this zeal is accompanied by love, respect, and tolerance towards others. Religious fanaticism, on the other hand, is characterized by an extremely rigid and often intolerant approach to faith. Religious fanatics might be driven by excessive fervor, but their focus can deviate towards imposing beliefs and excluding those who do not share those beliefs.
A biblical passage that calls us to moderation and humility in our faith is Philippians 2:3-4: ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.’ This reminds us of the importance of treating others with love and consideration, rather than imposing our beliefs fanatically.
In summary, apostolic zeal is a virtue that urges us to share the message of Christ with love and humility, following His example of compassion and redemption. Unlike religious fanaticism, apostolic zeal focuses on spreading faith without imposition or exclusion, respecting the dignity and freedom of every individual. As believers, it is essential to follow the path of apostolic zeal and distance ourselves from religious fanaticism, always striving to be channels of love and hope in the world.