In Galatians 4:19-20, Paul sings a “song sung blue” which he sings “with a cry in his voice.” The emotions get the best of him. He writes, “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is 27 we are nothingformed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.” The Wycliffe commentary says, “Paul’s pain and concern were like those of a mother in travail. Yet what he agonizingly sought for was not the new birth of his friends (they were his children already in the Lord), but the full forming of the new life in them (Ephesians 4:13; cf. Philippians 3:10). Another visit, he felt, would be highly desirable. It would accomplish more than the pen. Then he could speak softly to them, as a mother to an erring but still beloved child, and thus change his voice, which now necessarily seemed harsh.”

Paul was a religious fanatic. His Zeal, as he called it, drove him to try to destroy the church of God. He participated in murder; he arrested and enslaved both men and women, and participated in some of the worst crimes against humanity imaginable. He did all this in the name of religious zeal! This was the same religious zeal of the Judaizers, Paul was still zealous. But now with Christ he has a true zeal for the welfare of the Galatians. He has the right kind of zeal that moved him to want the best for others. God expressed that kind of zeal for each of us as well. John 3:16 tells us all about it; “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” We see Paul teaching us about the right kind of zeal again in Romans 5:8; “But God demonstrates His own (zeal?) love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

The Corinthian Church had many zealous people. In the first few chapters Paul identifies them as being “zealous for gifts.” Then before he expounds on the superior value of “love” he says, in 1 Corinthians 12:31, right before the famous chapter on love, “But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way.” After going through the definition and identification of true biblical love (agape), he then tells the Corinthians, plagued by dispute and disorganization and strife and struggle, “to pursue love” (1 Corinthians 14:1). We can be zealous for our own ideas. We can be zealous for being right. We can be zealous for a particular interpretation. We can be zealous for our interpretation of reality. We can be zealous for our particular Spiritual gift, as well as our abilities and talents. We can be zealous for all the right things even. But there’s something far greater than being right! It’s love! Nothing will ever trump love. Be zealous for love! In his sermon on zeal, John Wesley wrote, “But of all holy tempers, and above all others, see that you be most zealous for love. Count all things loss in comparison of this,—the love of God and all mankind. It is most sure, that if you give all your goods to feed the poor, yea, and your body to be burned, and have not humble, gentle, patient love, it profiteth you nothing. O let this be deep engraved upon your heart: All is nothing without love!”