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Back in 1859, John Brown led 21 men on a raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. He was on a mission to abolish slavery. His plan was to seize weapons, give them to slaves, and together they would set free other slaves. But within 36 hours, most of his men had been killed or captured. Even though his efforts failed, some think his zeal led to abolishing slavery. Zeal can lead to good or bad outcomes. Saul of Tarsus was a zealot. We read in Acts chapter 9 that he “was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.” On a mission to arrest Christians in Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Until he met Jesus, Saul thought he was doing God a favor by getting rid of Christians, but his zeal was misguided. To have God’s approval, zeal must be aligned with His revealed will—the Bible; it must be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit; and it must foster His kingdom purposes of justice and righteousness.

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