Jealousy can be a good thing

I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her. Zechariah 8:2

First of all, we need to rethink the picture that jumps into our mind when we hear the word ‘jealousy’. We see jealousy as a bad thing – that green-eyed monster that devours and controls and destroys and imprisons. There are plenty of examples of that in life and in the media: a jealousy that rages out of control makes for a great storyline. Blinded by jealousy, a lover does all sorts of crazy and destructive things. Most of them about revenge.

I’ll hurt you like you’ve hurt me.

If I can’t have you, then no one will.

Jealousy like this scares us and rightly so. We’re scared of being controlled, not trusted, of having our every move scrutinised and our phone checked, of not being believed. This kind of jealousy is stifling and suffocating.

That’s not the kind of jealousy God is talking about here.

Jealousy can be tender and can arise out of a deep love, a yearning to be as close to the other as possible, to spend as much time with the other as possible. This tender jealousy is expressed well in this song by Labrinth –

I’m jealous of the rain
That falls upon your skin
It’s closer than my hands have been
I’m jealous of the rain
I’m jealous of the wind
That ripples through your clothes
It’s closer than your shadow
Oh, I’m jealous of the wind

Jealousy reveals to us what and who we really care about. What and who matters most to us. What and who we hold most dearly.

On a trivial level, if you told me you were going to see Beyonce, I wouldn’t be bothered, but if you were going to see Coldplay, then I would be really jealous. I feel a stirring of jealousy if you were off to Turkey, but not Iceland. Do you get what I’m saying. If you find yourself feeling jealous of someone or something, dig deep and see what that’s all about: it will help you identify the desires of your heart.

If you love someone, you will want to spend as much time with them as possible. You’ll feel a twinge of jealousy when they go away without you, because you’ll want to be there sharing in that experience with them. You’ll feel a little jealous of the friends they go out with, because deep down, you want that to be you. You know it’s the right thing and they go with your blessing and you trust them to come back to you, because they love you too, but you still feel that twinge, right? (which generally translates into grumpiness the night before the other goes away for work in this house, but that’s OK, because we now know it for what it is and can deal with it).

If you didn’t care that much, you wouldn’t be bothered.

Of course, it’s when jealousy gets out of hand that things can turn nasty. When it metamorphoses into lack of trust and paranoia and clinginess and anger and controlling behaviour. That becomes toxic and should not be tolerated: that green-eyed monster should not be fed and allowed to grow.

But in its purest sense, jealousy is an outworking of love. In this passage from Zechariah, it’s an outworking of God’s love for His people. He goes on to explain what this jealousy looks like in practice.

And this is what the Lord says:

  • I want to spend as much time as I can with my people. Where they are, that’s where I want to be too.
  • I want to see my people live long and live well in peace and happiness.
  • I want to see them enjoying this newfound freedom and marvelling at my provision and protection.
  • I want to bring them all back home so that they can see my faithfulness and goodness for themselves.
  • I want them to see how things have changed. Nothing will be the same as it was before.
  • I want them to want to reconnect with me, to start rebuilding my temple as a symbol of rebuilding relationship with me.
  • I want my people to relax into my blessing. I want to give my people good things.
  • I want my people to stop acting out of fear, but rather out of truth and justice.
  • I want my people to respect their traditions because they want to and not because they have to. I want them to come before me with joy, because they’ve come to love peace and truth as much as I do.
  • I want my people to be a light that draws other people towards the light, so that people from all nations will come to know me.

That’s how God feels about each one of us too, you know that right? He yearns to spend time with us and get to know us and connect with us. He wants us to know that He’ll always be there, watching over us and enjoying us as we live life to the full. He wants us to live in peace and love, relaxing into His way and provision for our lives. And He wants us to show what living in relationship with Him is like so that others will see and be drawn into relationship with the one true God themselves.

He wants to be a part of our lives. He wants to share in it all with us. He wants to be in relationship with us.

This is the God of the universe we’re talking about it here!

God of heaven, living in me.

Unbelievable, right?

Start believing it!

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