One spring morning while out jogging (back when I still jogged), I was attacked by a bird. The paved path I had traveled on many times passed within feet of a tree where this momma jay apparently had a nest full of new babies. I thought the first close “pass by” was a fluke. Surely this feathered creature did not mean to brush my arm with the tip of her wing. But then she circled around and dove at me again and again.
Anyone watching surely had a good laugh. As the momma bird kept up her assault, I attempted to scare her away with frantic hollering and wild waving of my arms. I even managed to perform these defensive maneuvers while continuing to stumble down the path as fast as my legs would carry me. But she made sure I was a good 50 yards away from her babies before she returned to the nest.
“Jealousy” fosters protection
The apostle Paul reminds me a bit of this momma jay. He had a fierce desire to protect the Christians in Corinth from false teaching that might lead them away from the pure Gospel of Christ. These feelings of spiritual protection fostered what he referred to as “godly jealousy.”
2For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. 2 Cor 11:2-4, NLT
There’s sinful jealousy and godly jealousy
We usually consider jealousy as something we must get out of our lives – a sinful attitude to turn away from. In fact, as we mentioned in Monday’s post, Scripture warns us over and over to forsake jealousy (Romans 13:13, James 3:14). And while “jealousy” is defined as “envious and contentious rivalry,” the same Greek word also means “ardor in embracing, pursuing, or defending anything” (Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary).
Like the mother bird fought to protect her babies from the dangerous middle-aged jogger, Paul arduously fought to protect the Corinthians from teachers that would lead them astray from God and His truth. Paul’s jealousy was not selfish or self-serving. His only motivation was to protect God’s honor and glory by guarding His possession from those who wanted to do them harm or steal them away.
Our God is Jealous
Paul’s jealousy reflects the character of God. When God dictated the second commandment to Moses He described Himself as “jealous” (Exodus 20:4-5). And later in Exodus, when God gives Moses the commandments a second time, He not only refers to His jealousy again, He names Himself “Jealous” (Exodus 34:14). For more on God’s jealousy, see Monday’s post.
God pursues a relationship with us and will fight to defend that relationship when anything or anyone threatens to come between us. For instance, when we give something else God’s rightful first place in our lives, He will move to get our attention.
Those of us who have a saving relationship with Jesus, who have been born again by the indwelling presence of His Spirit, belong to God. We are not our own. We don’t have the right to give ourselves to another. God will jealously fight for us and for His honor. And – like Paul – as God’s people we also can jealously fight for God’s glory and honor.
What is the motivation behind “godly jealousy”? Is there a situation in your life now that could use a little godly jealousy?