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Jealousy is an important part of love

Love is patient, love is kind…love is jealous?

Jealousy gets a bad rap sometimes, and as I often emphasize on this blog, I think it has to do with people’s tendency to oversimplify everything. Most people want their truths in obvious blacks and whites; nuances are troublesome to deal with. (There are also shortcomings with any human language that people seem to ignore.)

But if you think about it, true love cannot be wholly separated from jealousy. There are good and bad types, to be sure, and it’s important to differentiate between the two.

For instance, if I love my wife fully, it is not possible for me to be OK with her professing romantic love for some other man, or even overtly flirting with someone else. If I’m fine with her caring about another man more than me, then I think that points to an obvious lack of love on my part for her. I wouldn’t be jealous if I only had some kind of nonchalance or apathy toward her, but with complete love, jealousy is always a potential reality. This is a good kind of jealousy. It is a healthy indication or symptom of true love.

But if I feel strongly that she is not allowed to come in contact with any other men out of paranoia, or if I lose sleep over her commenting on the attractiveness of a certain Korean celebrity actor, then that points to something different. That kind of “jealousy” points to my own insecurity or a possessiveness that betrays the oneness and equality that is found in marriage. Rather than looking out for her happiness—out of love—I am watching out for my own fulfillment, using her as the object to achieve that means. Put another way, she becomes a means to an end (my own satisfaction) rather than an end in herself.

Now, considering that God is the embodiment of love (and truth, justice, goodness, etc.)…should the following verse surprise us at all?

Deuteronomy 4:24: “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

“But that’s the Old Testament God,” some people say. “Jesus changed all of that.”

Oh really?

Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.”

(By the way, I wish I didn’t have to point this out, but “hate” in the verse above does not refer to an intense feeling of dislike. The verse is emphasizing the relative unimportance of our earthly families compared to God. Considering that many other parts of the Bible show that family is highly important, this stresses how much more God is to be exalted in our lives.)

God is perfect in love for us, so jealousy comes hand in hand. He has no apathy toward His people, so is it any wonder that He views it as abhorrent when we make anyone or anything in this world higher than Him in our lives? Whether it’s a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, money, career, health…whether it’s a good or bad thing…how can God NOT get jealous? When we choose work or play over spending time in His word, can we rightly say, “Oh, God will understand. He is love! He’s my teddy bear!”

It’s BECAUSE He is love that He cares. In fact, He gets fiercely angry with righteous anger when we exalt idols in our lives. We often read the Old Testament and snicker at the stupidity of the people bowing down to golden calves and figures. How is it any different when we care more about popularity or success than growing in righteousness toward God? People haven’t changed; the types of idols have.

Always remember that God is a jealous God. And guess what? You WANT Him to care when you stray too far because that means He’s in love with you and wants you for Himself. When you no longer see His jealousy for you, that’s when you have to worry…

Psalm 81:12 shows us what God does to those who have rejected Him out of arrogance and idolatry. He doesn’t always destroy them in an outward act, but sometimes from within their own hearts: “So [God] gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.”

That is scary. Have you ever wondered how some people who have rejected God seem to be doing so well in this world? It’s because God has stopped thwarting them. He is no longer jealous for them. In fact, He’s given them over to the fate they sought after so hard: temporary pleasure in this world for eternal damnation. Bad trade if you ask me.

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Categories: General, Theology Tags: , , , , ,
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