When Jealousy is Good

This week Claudine Lehman shared with us her “god-story” of her Jealous Valentine.

“Jesus Lover of my soul – let me hide myself in Thee.” I’ve always loved those words from that familiar hymn.

Jesus is my precious Valentine. Jesus. The one who created me, and then gave himself for me that I might be His own child.

He also gave me the best Valentine – His own love letter – to be read every day of my life. It never gets old – never out-dated.

Jesus’s love is unconditional, it is a faithful and true love, it never fails, never changes– regardless of the circumstances, or . . . whatever life may hold.

But did you know, His love is also a jealous love? In fact, his very name is “jealous.”

“For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, WHOSE NAME IS JEALOUS, IS A JEALOUS God.” Ex. 14:14

A Biblical attribute of God is his fierce passion for His own. – He is a jealous God.

Love and Jealousy go together.

I remember the first time I experienced true jealousy. I was standing at the window of my 3rd floor dorm room at college. I saw Curt strolling across campus – from the dining hall to the student center – with Carmen. Carmen was a very beautiful Spanish student from South America.

Ever since my roommate insisted that we meet, Curt and I had been sort of “hanging out.” He was fun to be with, we had a lot in common, he was a campus leader, and he was good looking (but short).

I really wasn’t looking for this friendship to go anywhere. In fact, I was still interested in a former student who wasn’t at school that semester. Besides I was determined not to marry a preacher or missionary. And in a school where the majority of the guys were either headed for the ministry or mission field that really cut the selection down. So, from the beginning, I’d ruled him out. He was just a guy I occasionally had a coke with or went with to some campus event. Just a friend.

But then I saw him with Carmen, and I was shocked at my reaction.

We had made no promises; we weren’t going steady. I had no claims on him or he on me! So what was happening here? I was experiencing feelings I couldn’t explain – and really didn’t want to acknowledge.

I tried of forget the scene, to explain away my reaction. But, over the next few days, I found myself sleuthing around – trying to find out what was going on with them.

Jealousy is rooted in a combination of vices: Distrust, suspicion, controlling behavior, anger and possessiveness. Therapists tell us that jealousy undermines relationships;

In Proverbs, Solomon writes – “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

Yet, I read some place that over 30 times God is associated with jealousy in the Bible.

We see it in the 1st commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me, …You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Ex. 20: 3-5

Jealousy is associated with Love.

An Old Russian proverb states, “Jealousy and love are sisters.” And St. Augustine tells us,  “He that is not jealous is not in love.”

I guess at the moment at my dorm window, I begin to realize that maybe something more was going on here . . . I was feeling a strong possessiveness, I didn’t want to share Curt with Carman, and there was a rivalry there . . . and a little anger. In human beings these are known as vices: possessiveness . . . rivalry . . . anger.

While jealousy is not good for us humans, it is praise-worthy for God to be jealous.

As mere humans, we have no right to demand the ultimate loyalty of another person–that is called slavery.

Yet, God has every right desire our ultimate loyalty.

We are flawed, finite, selfish beings. God is holy, infinite and perfectly loving. He deserves our ultimate loyalty. So when God sees His people – you and me – traipsing after other gods, he would hardly be the God of love if He remained indifferent.

God loves you and me, and the last thing he wants to see us do is skip down a path that leads to our destruction. You bet He is jealous. Since jealousy and love go together, it is natural that there is PASSION involved here.

I really didn’t have a very calm, rational spirit when I saw Curt with Carmen. I wanted him away from her. I saw this as a very dangerous situation.

God’s jealousy is not just a protecting love–it also involves passionate action!

In Deut. 4:23-24,  we find these words:

“Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, . . . For the Lord your God is a consuming fire.” (hot, strong, burning, raging love)

God has given us a tremendous amount of freedom–freedom to make choices. He may not control our choices. In fact, he doesn’t control our choices. They are our choices to make, but that does not mean that he is indifferent to what we do.

He cares – deeply, passionately. That is what perfect love is all about. Perfect love is a jealous love. It is a love that is desperate for our welfare.

God cannot–WILL NOT–sit by and do nothing when we act foolishly – like following false gods.

Our God, whose name is Jealous, is a consuming fire. He wants nothing but the absolute best for us. He’s given us freedom to choose our way. But he is not going to let it go at that.

He will take any measure needed, even fits of jealous rage, to get our attention so that we won’t destroy ourselves. (Look at the history of His chosen people, the Israelites. When they went off on their own slippery slopes, Jehovah did some pretty outrageous things to bring them back to Him. )

Over time I came to realize that I deeply respected and loved Curt Lehman. I did become a pastor’s wife – not because it was what I always dreamed of being – but because it was Curt’s dream, his life’s calling, and it became mine.

And through the years I’ve experienced that passionate, protective jealous hand of my Heavenly Father. I know what it’s like to be skipping down a slippery, destructive path and feel his consuming fire step in and bring me back. I know you have too.

Such a God is not an easy God to understand or deal with all the time. But I would not want to have any other God on my side. I need my God to be jealous of my love.

So when I look at a Valentine today, I am reminded of God’s protecting, passionate love for me. It is a consuming fire.

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