“If there’s no God other than Him, then why is He jealous?”

Ann Althouse has an interesting little post about a confrontation between a regular street evangelist and some passing students.

The smugly religious and the smugly non-religious have a lot in common, both are fully convinced of their positions, even as it’s a little like talking to 7 year olds. Well, maybe worse than that. Those kinds of people tend to make up stuff rather than admit ignorance.

Evangelists, anyhow, are a bit like the sales department. They have the glossy flyers, and the spiel, and can steer conversations, but they’re often not the best at describing the fullest picture of a religion. Need to go to the support department for that, or maybe talk to an engineer.

I know this isn’t the point of that post, yet I’m thinking more about the post title quote.

Jealousy is an interesting word as we use it with the Christian God. First off the premise of the question is not quite right. Jealous is used of God only in the Old Testament where, of course, gods abounded of all kinds. The monotheism of that time didn’t dismiss the existence of other gods, maybe even open to their reality of some kind or another. It said God is the God of all things, including other gods. God is the one to be in relationship with.

To add, whether or not other gods exist in reality isn’t as much of the point. People were, in fact, serving other gods. The Israelites became worshippers of idols. Now, in a way, that’s less like having an affair and more like looking at pornography, but it’s still moving devotion away from the covenant source and towards a extra party. We become jealous when our love’s interest is focused elsewhere. It’s not about the other person, it’s about “our” person.

Jealousy is also an interesting word applied to God because it fills us in on God’s personality. God has emotions. That’s interesting, even if divine emotions are hard for us to grasp. It also says that God’s devotion to humanity is one of love. Jealousy is an emotion that comes out of a love for another. Far too often we’re told God is this passionless judge, marking down our sins and ruling a judgment based the facts of the case. But, a jealous God isn’t a judge, he’s a lover. He’s wanting his people because he desire’s their relationship, and they find their fullness, their peace, only in him. He’s jealous because he seeks them, and because objects of devotion other than him lead only to heartache. He wants the best, so he moves and acts out of his love, which sometimes has an element of anger in response to straying.

God is holy. God is love. These aren’t two sides, these are the same thing, expressed in relational pursuits. He is whole. He wants our wholeness. He’s jealous if we seek that elsewhere. Because there’s no where elsewhere it can be wholly found.

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