>Apparently a bit of an internet buzz has developed over a video clip of Oprah and her spiritual adviser/colleague/”?”, Eckhart Tolle. (I’d provide a link but I’m lazy. Besides, you’ve already received no less than five emails with it anyways.) In the video, Oprah explains to a viewer that the point at which she broke away from Biblical Christianity is when she heard a pastor proclaim that God is a jealous God. “Jealous of me?” a dumbfounded Oprah asked. I could go into what a colossal ego it takes to hear the phrase “God is a jealous God,” and to automatically assume that it means that He is jealous of YOU! I mean, I understand that Oprah is, indeed, the most powerful woman on the planet, but even she could manage some humility. But, that’s not really my point in writing. Oprah further responded that she rejected Biblical Christianity because she believes that God is love, but not jealous. This comment struck me on a couple of points.
First of all, it is a perfect illustration of what I’ve come to call the “buffet spirituality” that is prevalent in American society today. You know how a buffet works. You load your plate down with the stuff that you like, but you stay away from the stuff you don’t. Like the idea of a loving God? Then pile some of that on your plate! Don’t like the idea of a jealous God? No worries, just move down the buffet line to the next “item” awaiting your consideration. Let me just say, before I move on, that if God is truly God, then you and I are not given the privilege of defining Him by our personal preferences! And if we can define Him by our whims and desires, then He is not a God worthy of worship and devotion.
(It’s interesting that, in the same video clip, Oprah quotes a section from Tolle’s book in which he proclaims that religion is the product of men “making God in their own image.” There is certainly truth to this statement, but what is ironic is that neither Oprah nor Tolle recognize that they are doing exactly that. But, enough about that. On to my actual reason for posting this.)
I began to think about the tension between love and jealousy that Oprah felt, and in that I could initially identify with her. As I thought about the fact that 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “love is not jealous,” and 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love,” I began to wonder, “then how can God be jealous, as the Bible clearly states in many places (including Exodus 20:5,34:14 & Deuteronomy 4:24,5:9,6:15)?” Initially, this appears to be a great contradiction. So, how are we to reconcile this?
The apparent contradiction begins with a limited definition of “jealousy.” When we think of jealousy, we instinctively think of being envious “of someone or their achievements or advantages.” Using this definition, it is correct to state that someone is jealous “of” the other person. This clearly is an ugly trait and is, in fact, sinful. Thus, we can state with absolute certainty that God is, without any doubt, not jealous “of” the phenomenon that is Oprah.
But there is a fuller definition of jealousy. Jealousy can also mean to be “fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.” It is interesting to note that every text in Scripture that describes God as “jealous” is in the the context of asserting God’s exclusive claim to the devotion of the people who have entered into covenant with Him. In addition, most of these statements are accompanied by warnings against allowing one’s heart to be inclined toward another god. So, the meaning of God’s jealousy is clear: He is jealous “FOR” our love and devotion. His jealousy is not the antithesis of His love, but the expression of it! In the same way, I am jealous for Katie’s love and devotion. I’m not content to just have some of her most intimate love and devotion while allowing her to share it with others. As the man who has entered into marital covenant with her, I have a right to her fidelity and devotion, as she has a right to mine. I am jealous FOR her because I love her so greatly and I wish to honor her and the commitment that we have made to one another.
Thus, the tragic irony is that in trying to preserve her idea of God’s love, Oprah has rejected the very expression of God’s love for her by refusing to accept the wonderful reality of His jealousy for her.