Not Jealous (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Love is patient, love is kind; is not jealous; love does not brag; is not arrogant

1 Corinthians 13:4

Fun fact: the word that is translated jealous is also translated zealous elsewhere. This is not a bad translation, it is because the Ancient Greeks believed that Zeal was a daemon; an embodied concept. Daemons should never be confused with the Judaeo-Christian concept of demons, as the two are not the same thing at all. Daemons were, as already mentioned, the embodiment of ideas. Zeal took form in the person of Zelus, who was a sibling of Nike (victory), Cratos (strength), and Bia (force). Other notable daemons are Thanatos and Hypnos, the twin brothers who personified Death and Sleep.

Why take the time to go through all that? Because Zelus’ “humanity” meant that he could be both good and evil; right and wrong. The Ancient Greeks, for all that they got wrong, did understand something of duality. Zeal — the consuming passion for a person thing or idea — is not inherently bad. The disciples remembered an Old Testament prophecy that said zeal for the house of God would consume the Messiah. Zeal can be a very good thing. Even jealousy, taken in context, can be a good thing. I can jealously guard my family time and that is A Very Good Thing. Even God calls Himself a jealous God in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19). But the fourth verse of 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not jealous which means that God is not jealous and that I should also seek to not be jealous. What gives?

And I am back to that reality that zeal and jealousy can be good and bad; healthy and unhealthy. Zeal and jealousy in the negative means that I am consumed by envy or hatred or anger. If I am jealous of what someone else has, then I am jealous in the negative. If I am jealous for what I have, it is very possibly in the positive. And I notice that the preposition changes when the idea changes. If I am jealous of someone or something, then it is most often negative. If I am jealous for someone or something, then it is most often positive.

Love is not jealous in the negative connotation of the word. Love is not envious or hateful (which is the antithesis of love) or angry. Let me not be the worst that zealous or jealous can be, but aim for all that is good in the concept.

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