I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy… 2 Corinthians 11:2
Good news! Your minister loves you.
Or should do anyway, if they’re anything like what a true minister should be. They pray for you. They long to see you growing in Christ. They feel for your hardships and pains. You matter to them.
And because this is so, they can get jealous over you.
Hold on a minute! Isn’t jealousy a bad thing? Doesn’t the Bible tell us it is something we should stamp on the moment it rears its ugly head in our lives?
Yes, that’s true. Indeed, the very person who told the Christians of Corinth that he was “jealous for them” tells them in the next chapter that he doesn’t want to find among them any trace of “discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20). Jealousy figures there in a list of seriously nasty things, doesn’t it? (The same thing happens in Romans 13:13, if you feel like looking it up.)
But the thing to notice is that Paul slips in another little word here: the jealousy he is talking about is “a godly jealousy”. Ah! That makes all the difference. In fact, that phrase could almost be translated “the jealousy of God”. There is, it seems, a right kind of jealousy – a jealousy which is in fact a truly divine thing.
Godly jealousy is the jealousy that springs from true, deep love. And the Bible is very happy to ascribe it to God. Right there in the ten commandments we read: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). Even more startling, perhaps, is Exodus 34:14: “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous (!), is a jealous God”. If you would like a graphic description of what God’s jealousy is like (and if you have a fairly strong stomach) I suggest you turn to Ezekiel 16 – yes, all sixty-three verses of it.
Here’s a fact of life: if you truly love, there may be times when you are jealous. Suppose you are the parent of a teenager being drawn into a bad circle of friends – drink, drugs, sex and all the rest. Wouldn’t there be something wrong with you – something lacking in your love – if you didn’t feel jealousy? Or you lead a youth group, and you see some of the teenagers influenced by some culty sect?
That’s the kind of thing Paul is talking about here. The Christians in Corinth were his spiritual children. He was instrumental in them coming to Christ. Humanly speaking, he was the person who founded their church. He loves them dearly.
But now what does he see? “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the snake’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (verse 3). There are, it seems, false apostles and false preachers hovering around the Corinth church. Exactly what they were teaching isn’t absolutely clear – but Paul is in no doubt that they were bad news! The Corinth church was in danger.
There was a time when the father of the bride would “give the bride away” to the groom in the wedding service. This doesn’t always happen today, of course, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given the greater independence of women. But Paul sees himself in that role: “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (verse 2). Christ is the heavenly bridegroom, the church in Corinth is the bride, and Paul is the proud father. But now all that is in jeopardy.
So… going back to where we started: this is how your minister (hopefully!) feels about you. Anything that threatens to derail your walk with God will cause him or her acute pain: the pain of jealousy. And in this respect he or she resembles not only Paul, but God himself.
Now, you may look at your minister and find this hard to believe. Perhaps they don’t exactly come across as “jealous for you with a godly jealousy”. No doubt they have plenty of faults and failings. Possibly they sometimes irritate you to bits.
But I encourage you to see them through fresh eyes. Pray for them. Try to be supportive, co-operative and helpful. You may even like to have a fresh read of Hebrews 13:7 and 17… See them as “those who must give an account”. Be the kind of church member who ensures that “their work may be a joy and not a burden”.
Who knows? You might even find them improving!
A choice of two prayers!…
Loving Father, thank you for those set over me in spiritual leadership. Help me to value them, to pray for them, and to do all I can to encourage them in their ministry. Amen.
Loving Father, thank you for calling me to the role of leadership in your church. Help me to love, even with a godly jealousy, the people you have entrusted to my care. Amen.