Saturday, October 2, 2010

Try Being More Jealous

A man. An estranged woman. A slug loaded into a 22 rifle.

Ironically, he exhibits the virtue of patience as he lies in wait. Suddenly, eyes flicker as brain synapses fire in recognition. Finger on the trigger, he aims, blasting a hole straight through the metal door of her truck before hitting his target made of easily permeable flesh.

It sounds like something from the movies or a third-world country instead of civilized suburbia in America. Yet, this is real, occurring on the same road I drove down with my children mere hours before the shooting, the same road that crosses mine a few curves away from our seemingly safe home.

But what makes me take a step back is knowing that although we've never met, his blood is mingled with mine across the branches of our genealogy, his last name the same as my grandmother's.

The newspapers quote family members who can't believe it, who say this is nothing like the man they know. How many times have I heard similar stories. Yet, this time, it's closer to home.

If his blood carries this ability to let jealousy control him, does mine as well? The answer is yes. Although I may not want to consider it, this could easily be me or anyone else for that matter.

Jealousy is a powerful emotion. And as the typeface in my newspaper shows, this sinful emotion is just one step away from sinful action. Deservedly, it gets quite a bad rap.

Scripture, though, mentions a good kind of jealousy, one that I've somehow managed to pass over since my brain sees the word and automatically thinks "bad."

But in Paul's writings to the Corinthians, he tells them, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy" (2 Cor. 11:2, my italics). Here, he presents jealousy as a good thing. At first glance, this seems contradictory to the "Thou shalt not covet" commandment, which pretty much forbids being jealous of what others have/are.

There is a key difference, however, in sinful jealousy and godly jealousy. Interestingly enough, the difference comes down to (1) motive of the jealous party and (2) a preposition. Yes, I said a preposition--remember those from grade school? Words like "of", "from", "to", and "around"?

To be jealous OF someone is sinful. This kind of jealousy often leads to more sin because its motives are self-serving and based mainly in pride.

To be jealous FOR someone, though, shows one's motives are focused on wanting the best for the other person, no matter if that person is a friend or an enemy. Jealousy, in this sense, shows concern and care for others, a real-life application of what Jesus referred to as the second most important commandment--"Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 19:19).

Paul lived out this kind of jealousy for those he witnessed to. He was jealous for them to know Christ, to love Christ, and to serve Christ with their entire being. As such, he went hungry and homeless, suffered numerous beatings, spent years in prison, and ultimately gave his life because of his sincere concern and care for the believer and non-believer alike.

Knowing Scripture as he surely did, Paul must have learned this type of jealousy from God, Himself, a God who repeatedly exhibited jealousy for His chosen people. In Zechariah, "the LORD Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion...Therefore, this is what the LORD says: 'I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the LORD Almighty....'My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem" (1:14, 16-17).

God is without sin; yet, here, He is rightfully jealous for the well-being of His people. This jealousy means that He grows angry when other nations (and individuals) mistreat His people and, much like a loving Father, that He does what is needed to ensure they are taken care of.

Later in the same prophecy, God repeats His jealousy for the people of Israel, again describing exactly what His jealousy for them means He will do:

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.... 'I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain....Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there....I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God'" (Zech. 8:2-5, 7-8).

God is jealous for all His children--even those adopted into the family like me. He is so jealous for you and me that He sent His only son Jesus to die on the cross for your sin, for my sin.

In this "It's all about me" era, it seems we could all use to exercise a little more jealousy for the physical and spiritual well-being of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and yes, even our enemies.

1 comment:

  1. Good morning, Jennifer! The story of envy that brought tragedy to your area is all too familiar in the world we live in. It is truly sobering, as well as chilling.

    May the Lord help us all guard our hearts and bend our knees in humble seeking of freedom from envy and covetousness.

    And, may the Lord give us the good kind of jealousy that will storm heaven for those we love.

    Thank you for sharing. This is a very moving post.