This is the third week of expressing love. The first week was to emulate patience and all that doing so entails. The second week was adding kindness to our patience. (See “Love Is Patient” and “Love Is Kind” at rjowles.wordpress.com). If you have not kept up with this, then the good news is that you can start over any time. If you have been keeping up, then you are ready for the next addition to your expression of love.
The third qualification that Saint Paul uses for love is that love “is not jealous.” To be “jealous” is to have a “feeling of resentment against someone because of that person’s success, or advantages.” Jealous is to feel a rivalry with someone. Jealousy is when we cheer for ourselves while cheering against another. So Saint Paul is telling us that “Love does not root against anyone!”
Of course, when used with love, albeit usually romantic love, being jealous is a “suspicious fear.” It is a suspicious fear that the object of our love is not being honest, or is inclined toward a rival or is being unfaithful to us. This all seems to be adequately summarized with “Fear of Rejection,” but not simply feeling the fear, but behaving in a manner that reflects the fear. It is an angry, hostile, active fear of rejection that often either causes the one with the fear to reject first, or to become so hostile that he brings about his own rejection.
Finally, there is an element to being jealous that is best summed up by the old biblical word “covet.” To covet something is not simply to want it, neither is it simply being greedy, nor being possessive. To covet something is to become so obsessed and focused on the object (or person) that you begin to plan or act in a way to take it. Think Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Before he became Gollum, he was Sméagol, a simple creature like a Hobbit. His friend Déagol found the Ring of Power and Sméagol became covetous. Sméagol did not just want the ring. He was not simply greedy. Sméagol was obsessed in such a way that he tried to steal it, and when that proved unsuccessful, he killed his friend Déagol to get it. To be covetous is to operate in that desperate, irrational, all or nothing zone of “If I can’t have it, nobody can!”
The commandment of “Thou shall not covet” is not simply saying “Don’t lust after your neighbor’s spouse” or “Don’t be envious of what your neighbor owns,” but it is saying “Don’t let yourself get to a point where you plot against your neighbor so that you can get your neighbor’s spouse and/or possessions.” The commandment to love addresses this commandment because “Love is not jealous” and “Love is not covetous.”
So, when Saint Paul says that “Love is not jealous,” he is saying:
- Love does not fear rejection
- Love is not anxious
- Love is not resentful
- Love is not envious
- Love is not possessive
- Love is not suspicious
- Love does not plot to harm others
- Love is not demanding
- Love does not doubt the one being loved
- Love does not mistreat others to feel good about itself.
This means, since it is our job to love God and love others, we are to be patient with God and others in all that entails, and we are to be kind toward God and others in all that entails, and we are to not be jealous with God. We are not to fear rejection from God, or be resentful toward God, or suspicious of God and God’s motives, or make demands or ultimatums at God, but it also means that we are not to be possessive of God. We are not allowed to withhold God from others. It may seem absurd to think of trying to withhold God from others, but people do this all the time. People are jealous of the grace others receive. They want to keep that grace for themselves. So they determine that others are unworthy of God’s grace and set out to mistreat those people. LOVE DOES NOT MISTREAT OTHERS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT ITSELF!
Love risks being rejected. That is God in a nutshell. God is love and love does not fear rejection, but does what it does knowing full well that the one receiving that love can use the fact that he or she is loved as a weapon against the one who is doing the loving. Yet, God, who is love, does not fear the rejection. God is not suspicious or resentful. God is not possessive and God makes no demands on us. God says to us “This is how I love and I would like to be loved in the same way, and I want you to love those whom I love in the same way that I love you” – but look at the world! People do not love God or others the way God wants us to all over the place. Yet, God is not lashing out or saying “If I can’t have you, nobody will!” Love does not do that, and God is love.
So, our mission this week is to add to our patience and kindness by risking rejection, forgiving, cheering for the successes of others (especially if that person is a rival or we just do not like that person), be content with what we have (or do not have), be trusting, be generous (with our affections as well as with our things), make no demands on anyone, harm no one, and build others up, rather than trying to knock them down. These are all the opposite of what it is to be jealous, and since love is not jealous, doing these things moves us closer to the hitting the mark of what love is.