Today, on the eve of St Valentine: jealousy. For two reasons, firstly, this morning’s New Testament reading talks about early believers giving it, ‘I follow PAUL,’ well I follow, APOLLOS’ (as in early Christian factions), and secondly, because I was talking with my longest-lasting friend yesterday (32 years!) and apart from righting the universe from Crosby Beach, we discussed the insanely jealous behaviour of people having affairs, as opposed to those who were not.
We came to the conclusion – and it’s not rocket science – that ultimately you treat others as you are treating them. So, if you are utterly faithful, content, focusing your energies on maintaining your significant-other relationship, basically orienting your love and attention towards them while choosing to let their bad habits endear themselves to you rather than forever scouting around the sweet shop, you don’t behave jealously and are perfectly happy to wave them off with a smile for the weekend secure in the knowledge that they just wouldn’t do that. Would they?
Whereas if there is always another possibility on the horizon, and your eyes are always on it, if you are forever looking over your shoulder thinking, ‘should I stay or should I go’, always on the make for an upgrade as if the person you are in relationship with is just another object to be traded in when a new or novel model comes along, insecurity, jealousy and suspicion will be the net result of projecting your own view of the world on to your poor unsuspecting partner and their every interaction with others will be closely monitored or even controlled. (I am excluding people who have been badly betrayed and find it difficult to trust others, have abusive partners or self-esteem issues here, because one short blog couldn’t begin to discuss that quagmire.)
Jealousy isn’t confined to significant others. The scripture for today couldn’t be more apt after the couple of weeks I’ve had where people have been blatant about their jealousy, anger, resentment – call it what you will – about my new role at MediaCityUK. So much so, that even the Curate on placement with me has been shocked enough to note it. That is not a good indictment of our unity and Christocentric, or Kingdom-oriented focus, now is it?
I find it remarkable that such jealousy and envy exists given that we all claim to serve the one Lord for the one Kingdom and our theology and doctrine endlessly reinforce the collective nature of our individual ministries where one sows, another reaps but it is GOD who gives the increase. If we are going to run with Pauline theology and doctrine, we are a worldwide community where one part of the body cannot say to another, I don’t need you. Where one part receives more honour and another less but all are necessary. Where – and for me this is the most important – the Holy Spirit gives gifts as SHE chooses. Not as we chose, desire or agree to (frankly, I’d prefer a job without any flak).
For me, in both cases, personal or professional/ministerial, jealousy is about possession and control and in both cases we have no right to either. Possession and control mean that we have a sense of entitlement (oh no we don’t, people are free agents with a right to choose, as are employers/the Holy Spirit). A sense of entitlement leads to anger when our own personal desires are not met. We cannot control another, nor can we control circumstances, nor who receives which post/gifting/job package in the face of our own post/different gifting/redundancy package. Of course sometimes it is grossly unfair; life is. I’ve been made redundant, I’ve worked my butt off in a factory and I’ve been selected for one or two pretty top-notch posts. What can I tell you? I’ve had to learn both to abase and abound (yep, we’re on a roll with Paul, folks).
Jealousy is a destroyer – of people, of relationships, of community, of unity and above all, of the greater good that could be achieved collaboratively. All we need to do to is our bit, and give other people the encouragement and support to do theirs, just as one lover ought to do for the other.
Tomorrow – Valentine secrets!