about fanaticism & grace

Let’s talk about Jehu.

Here’s the backstory:

King Ahab of Israel was not a very nice guy. You know how sometimes in our day we use the word “Jezebel” as an insult against a woman? It’s probably worse than you think. Jezebel was terrible, and she was Ahab’s wife. I get the feeling that if Eve and Jezebel had switched places, Jezebel would have eaten half the damn tree and then made apple pie, applesauce, and apple juice for Adam (or whatever fruit it was). She didn’t just sin. She reveled in offending God.

Ahab went right along with it. He and his family worshipped other gods and led the country in worshipping other gods. As you might imagine, God wasn’t a real big fan of that.

So when Ahab died one of his sons became king. But God had other plans. He led a prophet to anoint this guy, Jehu, as king. (Actually the prophet was told to anoint Jehu and then run for his life. These were intense times.)

Jehu is told how he’s going to destroy what remains of the family of Ahab to cleanse the nation. So Jehu does. He killed everyone. In one dramatic scene, he takes the heads of Ahab’s seventy sons, piles them at the city gate, and leaves them there overnight. Seventy human heads piled high overnight. That’s hardcore.

Jehu kills all of Ahab’s relatives, all of his important officials, his personal friends, and his priests.

Then he destroys all the Baal worshippers who had been previously led by Ahab. He calls all the Baal worshippers from around the nation, tricks them into entering the temple of Baal, traps them in the temple, and then slaughters all of them. And then, to add insult to injury, he turns the remains of the temple into a public toilet.

There’s a lot of ways we could look at this story and surely a lot of controversy you could pull from it. But after all of this hardcore action-movie drama, there was one verse that really jumped out at me this morning, “But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (2 Kings 10:31).

Oh, heavens. This guy was so fanatically, extremely obedient to God that he purged the entire nation of any remnant of either Ahab or the Baal worship he caused. And yet there was something, some sin, in his heart that he would not release.

And surely if you know me, you know by now why this one facet of the story jumped out at me: because it’s also my story. And probably yours, if you’re a believer.

I am a complete fanatic about some aspects of my faith. Early on in my walk with God I was heavily convicted of dishonesty with legal matters. Piracy of software, movies, or music, for example. Speeding in my car. Littering. Little things that we don’t normally think of as sins, those are the things God drilled me about. Because we’re instructed to obey our country’s laws and by disobeying them, I was disobeying God. I was spitting in the face of the authority under which God had placed me.

Now my husband has called me “the most law-abiding citizen” he knows. I detest dishonesty. I will go out of my way, out of my comfort zone, and to great lengths to follow the laws as I know them.

But, like Jehu, I haven’t obeyed the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all my heart. I have refused to turn from sins like bitterness, jealousy, and pride. It’s as if I keep hoping God will focus more on how great I am at watching my speed in my car and overlook that gaping hole in my heart caused by my pride.

Luckily there’s the Gospel, and grace. Luckily this God I worship hasn’t given up on me. Luckily he continues to refine me in these areas of sin. But lest I ever get too big for my britches and start thinking I’m the holiest person because of my fanaticism in some areas, God is quick to remind me that I’m holy not because any of my actions in any areas but rather because of his grace and his grace alone.

So now I can repent of these sins, return my focus to God and my trust that he will continue refining me, and praise him for his grace.

How about you? What are your areas of fanaticism? What are the areas of sin in your heart you somewhat conveniently overlook?