Godly Jealousy

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 11:2).

A Jealous God

Paul wrote to a church – Corinth – that had caused him much anxiety. The Corinthians had many problems and were much like the Church today, yet Paul loved them and spoke the truth to them.

Paul was concerned with their faithfulness to Christ and purity in Christ, as false teachers were swaying them away from the truth of the Gospel. Paul told the Corinthians he loved them and was jealous for them with a godly jealousy.

This statement implies that God is a jealous God. Is this true? Yes, it is! God told the Israelites:

… thou shalt not bow down thyself to them [idols], nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). This is quite an admission about Himself, and it has taken many believers by storm.

A Holy-Love Jealousy

When we think of jealousy, we think of someone who is green with envy. Images come to our mind of those who are obsessive, angry, insecure, and afraid of losing all they have. In other words, we view jealousy as purely a negative thing.

Yet, God describes Himself as being jealous. The big difference between God's jealousy (and Paul's) and that of common jealousy is that God's jealousy is based holy love! In Paul's situation, he wanted the Corinth believers to be pure in their doctrine because he wanted them to be pure before Christ. We, as the Church, should be holy and pure, and this is what Paul was trying to communicate to the Corinthians. God desires the very same thing of His people today.

Two Kinds of Jealousy

There are two kinds of jealousy: 1) Jealousy OF someone or something; and 2) jealousy FOR someone or something. And there is a big difference between the two.

Jealousy OF someone or something is based on pride – a desire to control, or an obsession of what someone is or has. This is a sinful jealously. On the other hand, jealousy FOR someone, based in holy love, means to want what is best for someone else and that you will do all you can to help bring it about. This includes protecting, providing, encouraging, and rebuking, which is what God does with His people. This is the kind of godly jealously of which Paul was speaking.

This godly jealousy includes a deep desire to make sure the other person is pure, honest, and truthful because you care for their wellbeing. This kind of jealousy, because it's based on holy love, doesn't lower itself to manipulative tactics, control, or false guilt. Rather, it strives to build and never to tear down.

Follow Paul's Example

As believers, we need to follow Paul's example. Here are a few ways to know if you love the Church with a godly jealousy.

Do you want the body of Christ to be pure as Paul did? Do you love others with godly jealousy or sinful jealousy? In other words, do you seek to build up rather than tear down? Do you love as God loves and as Paul loved?

If we as believers would work on developing a godly jealousy, just think of the impact we could have in the lives of those both in and out of the Church. If you want to have such an impact, work on your jealously! No, not a sinful focus on yourself, but a Paul-like godly jealously infused with holy love that seeks only to build others up!

Dr. Michael Weis is a pastor, video operator, editor, and social media manager at Zion's Hope.