jea*lous - adjective 1. feeling resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages (often fol. by of)
2. feeling resentment because of another's success, advantage, etc. (often fol. by of)
3. characterized by or proceeding from suspicious fears or envious resentment
4. inclined to or troubled by suspicions or fears of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims
5. solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something
6. in the Bible: intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry
"Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." - Exodus 34:14
So, our theme at Student Life for our spring events in '09 is Live Love. I won't spend much time now getting into how or why we chose that theme or what we really mean by it. Perhaps I'll save that for another post, or you can come to one of the events yourself and find out. What I will say is that we've begun working on the content for that event that will flesh out the theme. Today, in particular, we had our first meeting about the Bible study for our Just Like Christ series that will go along with this theme. For this initial meeting we try to cast some vision about what we're wanting to generally communicate about the theme from a Biblical perspective and then try to prayerfully hone in on what Scripture passages we should focus on. We go about this in any number of different ways, everything from just tossing out specific references or stores to talking concepts and topics. Present for the meeting in question were Andy Blanks (Director of Resource Development), Drew Francis (Creative Director), Justin Ireland (Director of Ministry Events), Jenny Riddle (Publishing Assistant), Travis Hawkins & Erin Moon (Big Time Producers), and myself (I've included titles because a lot of us have gotten new ones lately, and I think it's kinda funny; mine's Content Creator, by the way; how's that for a title).
At one point, about midway through our conversation, Andy started us wondering if there was a parallel between how we are to love God and how we are to love others. For instance, we're to serve God. It's easy to see a parallel in that the Bible is very clear that we're to serve other people as well. But can you continue that type of thing? Let's consider worship. We're to worship God. Are we to worship other people? No. Certainly not. God alone is worthy of worship. Okay. But just what is worship? When I look up just a definition in English I see two things repeated: "honor" and "adoration." I think that's pretty good. Well, are we not to honor other people through our love for them? Is there not a measure of adoration for our fellow neighbor involved in our relationship with them? So... you see how we began thinking that might work and could be really interesting.
Well, that naturally led to wondering if, then, there is a parallel between how God loves us and how we are to love others. Now, this made sense right off the bat. After all, we know from 1 John 4:19 that we love because God first loved us. Our love, especially as a child of God, is an overflow of the love he pours out on us (I recognize I just made a little bit of a leap, but I'm just going to assume, as dangerous as that can be, that you're tracking along with me here; let me know otherwise if need be; besides, I'm kinda thinking and processing as I go along here). Now, if that's the case, then the characteristics of His love for us should be present in our love for each other. So, let's just start giving some names to those characteristics: grace, mercy, sacrifice, service, selflessness, humility, joy, peace, forgiveness, understanding, patience, faithfulness, etc. The list could obviously go on and on and on. And if you look at that list and even let it continue it makes sense how those things should be present in our love for other people, whether or not they currently are. But if you continue that list to its fruitiong, some characteristics that it would contain become a little more difficult to reconcile. One that jumped out to me was jealousy.
"... God is love." So ends 1 John 4:8. Right? No argument there, at least not from me. Now, if you flip back through your Bible, way towards the beginning, you come across that verse from Exodus I've printed above. the Lord, God is not only described as a jealous God, He is actually ascribed it as His name. It is so much a part of who He is, it so characterizes Him (at least in certain situations) that you could call Him that AS HIS NAME! Whoa! That's tough to ignore. Wrapped up in the Love God is the Jealous God.
So, I wonder, is jealousy supposed to be part of me as well?
Confession: unfortunatley, I am a jealous person by nature. Maybe we all are, part of being fallen and everything. However, it's always bothered me. This character flaw was made most evident in my dating life where I was very possessive of my girlfriend, especially concerning other friends she might have had of the male persuasion. But that's no the only place jealousy rears it's ugly head in my life. Whether it be at work or in my family or at my church or anywhere else for that matter, chances are I've been jealous of something. In fact, if I'm to be perfectly honest, there's a good chance that I've been jealous of you at some point or another, and I'm not even sure who you (the blog reader) are. That's how bad it can get. I'm not proud of it. I'm not ignorant of it. I can't justify it. I don't like it. But it's true.
And it's bad. Really, really bad. I know that. So, then, back to the idea of God as Jealous. Do I understand God's jealousy in light of my own? Or is He different? I'm going to go with the latter. I find it, not only inbeneficial to try to understand God through my understanding of myself, but completley irresponsible and dangerous as well, not to mention way off base and, frankly, wrong. Well, what does it mean then for God to be jealous?
To start I turn to the definition of the word. This is a little bit skewed because I'm dealing with the English here and not the Hebrew, but bear with me and trust me that it's okay. I've done my homework. I've printed the six definitions of "jealous" according to dicitonary.com. The first three all have to do with resentment, rivalry and fear. I'm going to go ahead and rule those out because God is Love, not resentment. There is no one or thing that can rival Him. And He really doesn't fear anything at all. He wouldn't be God if He did. So, let's move on to number 4. This one has to do with fear and rivalry as well. Why not just toss it out like the rest? Well, because of the word "unfaithfulness." This particular definition is what's used in relationships to say that someone is jealous. So, when I say that I was jealous of girlfriends and their relationship with their male friends it means that I was worried/fearful/anxious/whatever of them being unfaithful with someone I perceived to be a rival. However, the reason why I think this definition kinda works for God is that He isn't fearful of our unfaithfulness. He's fully knowledgable of it. Again, He isn't concerend with a supposed rival. He recognizes that anything else that receives our love vastly pales in comparsion to Him. Yet, He doesn't ignore that those things exist. So, I'm going to maintain that He is jealous because of our unfaithfulness, and His reason for this is actually another aspect of His jealousy.
Look at definition number 5. God is solicitous and vigilent in maintaining and guarding us and our relationship to and with Him, which is the reason He is jealous in the sixth definition sense of the word, the one that is directly attributed to the Biblical understanding. He is intolerant of unfaithfulness. He knows, possesses and is what is best for us. He is jealous of anything other than that for us.
So, then, can I parallel this jealousy that God posses on my account with how I might be jealous with others. I don't know. Maybe. I kinda think so. Can I not hope and seek a manner of love in which I so deeply care about other people that I am crazy with jealousy over anything else that gets their attention other than what I know to be the only thing deserving of it?
I think I can, and I do.