I sometimes hear people talk about their intention to stand up for God, to be jealous for His reputation. But then I begin to wonder sometimes if they are actually jealous for God or jealous about their own version of God. I think this partly depends on our definition of jealousy and very much on how we perceive God.
I have wondered at times how much I am supposed to come to the defense of God's reputation. Or maybe the question should be more along the lines of, in what way do I seek to defend God's reputation. Of course involved in that would be which reputation I might have in mind to defend, for most versions of God I have heard about I would have no interest in defending.
I recently read a short piece about God's jealousy and how it is different than what we typically think of when we use that word. Our jealousy is very often selfish in nature. We become jealous of what someone else has or receives what we want for ourselves. Often in acting out our jealousy we are tempted to spoil what someone else has to change the perceived differential between our status and theirs. This is due to a spiritual counterfeit I might call relativism – our value or identity derived from comparing ourselves with others around us. Because this is how we as sinners are predisposed to view ourselves it is no surprise that our ideas about jealousy have also been perverted.
But God's jealousy is of a very different nature than ours as much as God's agape love is vastly superior to anything we can generate that we call love.
God is very jealous for our well-being. This may sound cynical to many who view God as one who treats His children sternly and severely or maybe even unconcerned. But in truth God is always desirous of our best good. It is the enemy who has led us to believe that God sometimes is selfish and other times generous, kind and good. This confusing mixture of good and evil that is a signature of an abuser comes from our inherited deceptions from the Tree of Good and Evil when sin was infused into our spiritual DNA. The more clearly we learn the real truth about God and His pure character of selfless love, the more we discover that His jealousy over us is consistently selfless in nature.
An old term somewhat related to this that baffled me for many years was 'disinterested benevolence'. I finally came to learn that this term simply describes when a person chooses to benefit someone else without any ulterior motives of expecting something in return to benefit themselves. This is like the agape love that describes the very essence of who God is.
I have become very leery of popular versions of Christianity swirling around our country today because they have become so saturated with bigotry, so-called patriotism and self-interest. Many groups today make God out to be very much of an American who prefers to support the selfish American dream at the expense of the good of any other people. It is viewed almost as treason if a person questions the placards admonishing us to pray for our troops sent off to kill and main people of other religions or cultures. Yet I see nothing of the Spirit of Jesus in all of this sick promotional manipulation of God's reputation to prop up our shallow versions of religion.
Many today are certain that it is their duty to defend God's reputation. But why is this so intense in their thinking? Do we assume that if we don't come to God's defense that He is incapable of looking out for His own reputation? This seems to be the thinking of radical Muslims that create so much havoc around the world with their violence, all in the name of their God Allah. But what about the typical Christian reaction to this? Do we prefer a similar violent-prone God to defend us from those who threaten us? Or are we falling into the deceptive trap of letting our enemy's version of God influence and shape our own views of God?
I have come to the conclusion that maybe God does want us to defend His reputation, at least in the ways we are prone to want to do that. After all, God's reputation, under attack by myriads of accusations leveled against Him and initiated by His once closest friend Lucifer, is at the very core of the trial unfolding in the universe.
At the same time, God's reputation is at the root of the whole conflict between truth and evil. Because it is inherently true that a person can only be effectively vindicated by others and cannot successfully defend their own reputation without witnesses to come to their defense, God has asked us to be witnesses for Him to help correct the record against the lies so many believe about Him.
Yet there is still danger involved. In rushing to defend God's reputation it can also be extremely easy to overlook the fact that we often are seeking to reinforce a reputation about God that is contaminated by misinformation, misapprehensions and dark beliefs about God that are actually supportive of the accusations against Him. Thus it may be discovered that the version of God that we so eagerly try to defend may be another decoy of the enemy, a counterfeit caricature of God that actually is more reflective of the nature of Satan than of God. We must be very diligent as well as very humble and teachable if we want to be more effective witnesses helping to vindicate God's reputation. We must allow God's Spirit to work through us in this matter instead of trying to take things into our own hands.
The Bible is full of stories of people who thought they were doing God a favor by defending what they thought was His reputation but instead ended in disaster. Because we are born filled with misconceptions about God in our fallen nature, we must first begin to open our minds to the real truths about Him before attempting to launch counterattacks to assaults against God's reputation.
I have seen a tendency on the part of many to want to defend certain doctrines and suppose that they are defending God's reputation in the process. But more and more I am realizing that unless we have first cultivated a close relationship with Jesus personally and are coming to know Him intimately and are reflecting the loving, compassionate spirit that marks His nature, it will be impossible for us to attract anyone to want to enter into a saving relationship with Him by trying to defend doctrine.
Doctrines are only useful as we view them as supportive tools to assist us in knowing more about what God is like. For much of my life I lived in a culture that assumed that the most important thing for salvation was to learn as much doctrinal information as possible and somehow in doing so those doctrines eventually bring me to love or maybe even a relationship with God. But because that knowledge was based on intellectual facts rather than a foundational experience with God coming ahead of all doctrines, my religion failed to give me peace or life or joy. Any possible relationship with God was relegated to somewhere down the road as a future goal to work on after I became more righteous. It was assumed that if I got enough facts learned, enough right answers memorized and enough practice in that somehow a relationship with God might emerge down the road.
Now I have come to realize that this approach to looking for truth is in itself yet another scheme of Satan to divert me from experiencing what Jesus wants for me. I read very little about doctrines in the plain teachings of Jesus (at least doctrines labeled as such by churches today), but I read a great deal about things that deeply affect how we view God and how He feels toward sinners. It is becoming more and more evident to me that our greatest need is to first come to perceive God as He really is in all His magnetic attraction, to respond to His graciousness, beauty, love, compassion and all that we were created to need in order to thrive. Then, out of a context of a growing intimacy with Him, we can then approach doctrines as means by which to better understand the principles that God has designed for living life more fully.
When we make defending our doctrines paramount to defending God's reputation we will almost certainly end up damaging His reputation more than enhancing it. This seems to be what religion has accomplished more than anything else throughout history. God does not need more religious people to defend their own ideas about Him; rather He desires people who will allow Him to live in their hearts, reflect His true character to everyone around them and then speak the truth about Him that they have personally come to experience themselves. This is the greatest testimony that will have the best impact to defend God when He comes into court. This is the kind of witness that will be most helpful and that will give back to God the glory that has been stolen from Him by His many accusers. (see Romans 3:3-4; Revelation 14:7)
I want to live under the jealous eye of my God. To have a lover jealous of my affections is to be filled with confidence that I am cherished by Him. Far from being something negative, this kind of jealousy is something to desire, something that can draw love out of my heart. But at the same time I must be very careful how my ideas of jealousy for Him might affect my witness for Him. I must be willing to speak the real truth about Him, even when it is not popular with people around me. As I share with others the truth about my non-violent, consistently compassionate God that is unlike the popular views of God held by religion, I may come under attack. But I can know that my jealous God is proud that I am speaking well of Him and He is always with me no matter what others may say about Him.