Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:1-2
Jealousy can creep into most areas of our life without our knowledge. It sounds strange because we think we have dispensed with it as part of our Christian growth. However, it can become ingrained in nearly everything we do. But do we need to get rid of it all? Although they sound similar, jealousy is different to envy. Envy is related to covetousness, while jealousy is more about suspicion and the fear of loss. Therefore, it is necessary to better understand how jealousy works in us, remove the wrong types jealousy from our lives and keep what is good.
If someone belittles our football team, we might get jealous and defensive; some even get violent. Jealousy may also arise when our job or volunteer work is attacked. We get very jealous when people are aggressive toward our children (even if they acted like little wretches at the time). Of course, we can't forget the news articles that condemn something we hold sacred. In these instances, we immediately jump to jealousy and defence, sometimes to the point of being rude, blunt or dismissive in emails.
Our key scripture highlights Paul's righteous jealousy over the believers he has brought to the Lord or who came through his converts. Paul nurtured and fed them the true gospel of Jesus Christ and was often troubled they would find and be seduced by a false gospel—a dogma similar to Paul's but with enough changes to be inaccurate.
He says, "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy." It's not a sin to protect your flock, spouse or children with the same jealousy and watchful care over what they should believe to fulfil their Godly pathway. Had Paul left his flock to themselves, they might have pursued a range of spiritual guru's, leading them away from God. The main subject of the Corinthian letters was the departure from Paul's teachings. These churchgoers were his children in the gospel!
Psalm 127:4 states, "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth." This passage indicates we have a duty to be jealous, like God and Paul, over our children, whether natural or spiritual, always aiming them in the right God-fearing direction.
Following the principles of that Psalm, Paul made it clear that he was one of those mighty men with the bow aiming the arrows. Galatians 4:19, says, "My little children, for whom I am again in the pains of labor until Christ is completely and permanently formed within you." (Amplified Bible).
To Paul, these Corinthians, Galatians, and all the churches he fathered (planted) were his children, and therefore his responsibility under God. Of course, he was jealous! His jealousy was like that of God's. "For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." Deuteronomy 4:24. God was spiritually jealous for all the right reasons. God produced one way for the Israelites and did His best to stop them from straying to another way—to other gods. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Leading on from his Father, Jesus laid out the fact that He is the only way, and Paul feared God and directed his own spiritual family towards the same goals.
Are you jealous and protective enough of the Lord's Word and His people? Do you treasure His Word so greatly that nothing gets in the way of your relationship with God? Do you remain aware of a brother or sister slipping away from Christ? Do you visit in humility to help them repent and return? Or do you merely talk about them?
Distraught Christians have communicated like Paul to their own family or dear friends as they watched them depart from the Gospel to follow something else. I know many people who, in sheer desperation, have cautioned others in conversation or by letter, trying to bring them back into the fold they left.
To those I would say, take heart. Don't faint in praying or trying to help. Paul, in writing his epistles to the churches, endured the same anguish. As parents and friends do, he wrote letters of encouragement, direction, caution, and even rebuke, in his effort the keep his spiritual family on a true course. This type of jealousy is not a sin. It is righteous to have righteous jealousy over those things that God holds dear. That type of jealousy is provoked within us by the Holy Spirit, if it is underpinned by love.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your jealousy over me, and for Paul's jealousy over the mixed flock he called his children. Encourage and train me to embody Godly jealousy for your Way of Holiness, and over those who follow.
Photo by Kenan Suleymanoglu