Consider all that you know about jealousy for a moment. Not very pretty is it? Human jealousy can bring out the worst in us. As recent posts in Climbing Higher have shown, jealousy is often the source of heartache, broken relationships, and irrational behavior. The Bible warns about jealousy and associates this attitude with a variety of destructive behaviors. But the Bible also makes a distinction between selfish jealousy and what I will call “sanctified” jealousy.
In most instances, when we are jealous we are without the right to be jealous. For example, we want something someone else has and we are jealous that they have it. It is not ours and it never was – we have no right to be jealous.
Or as a single, we feel threatened because we are attracted to someone and see they are talking to another. No commitment has been made in marriage – we have no right to be jealous.
But wait; there is a unique form of jealousy that is justified because a covenant of love has been made. This is a jealousy that is not motivated by selfishness, but by the desire to protect. With this form of “sanctified” jealousy one truly has the “right” of feeling jealous, even betrayed. And, are you ready for this? This jealousy is not only good – it is godly!
The marriage commitment a couple makes to one another and to God is a covenant that may only be broken by death or adultery. It would be expected that one would feel betrayed and jealous if they knew someone else was getting the time, attention, and affection that belongs only to them. They have a covenant relationship that entitles them to have a consecrated place in their spouse’s life.
With the image of the marriage covenant in mind consider this: When God enters into a special relationship with a person by His grace and forgiveness it is also a covenant. As a matter of fact, Scripture uses the imagery of marriage as a picture of His relationship with His covenant people in both Old and New Testaments.
When His chosen people in the Old Testament turned from Him and worshipped idols, they were considered adulterers in the spiritual sense. They were breaking the covenant with their Beloved God and giving time, energy, affection, and wealth that should be reserved only for their True Love to false gods.
The thought seems incredulous. Why would a nation that had been so uniquely blessed by God, turn from their relationship with Him to gods that were not gods, but objects made by the hands of men? Yet they did on more than a few occasions.
The New Testament describes those in covenant relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Church. Because of the covenant relationship with Christ the Church is symbolically called, the “Bride of Christ.”
In Ephesians, husbands are called to “love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” The husband sacrificing His very life because of His love for His bride is a picture of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for everyone who enters a covenant relationship with Him. What great love!
When a person sincerely cries out to God for forgiveness trusting that His unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died for their sins and rose from the grave; in His grace and mercy God not only forgives them, but He enters into an eternal covenant with them. The Almighty God and mortal man now have a real and personal relationship.
Should that person turn away from God and allow people, possessions, or pleasures to occupy the place that is reserved for their First Love it should be no surprise that God is grieved and jealously desires that they turn back to Him (Rev. 2:4).
There are many attractions in our world that compete for our attention and affection. When we who are Christ-followers chooses to allow anyone or anything takes the place reserved for our First Love we, in a sense, are committing “spiritual adultery.”
No man or woman in their right mind would entertain the thought of sharing their wife or husband with another. Neither can we expect God to sit by while those for whom He died and redeemed to bring into a covenant relationship with Him, entertain affections that compete with Him. He loves us too much.
May I say that again? He loves us too much.
The Apostle Paul felt a “godly jealousy” when many of those he had introduced to Christ began to believe false teaching and turned from the truth (2Cor.11:2). He loved them and had invested his life in helping them to know the One True God. Naturally, he was grieved over what the false teachers were doing to those who were so dear to his heart. Godly pastors experience similar feelings when those they have taught and mentored leave sound doctrine and associate with cults and false religions.
The love of God is not a passive, emotionless abstract term. As one song says, His love is like a “hurricane.” His love is courageous and bold. He fought and died on the cross to save us from our sins. Once we are saved He will fight with no less zeal to keep us.
He loves us too much. And always has.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'”