For the Lord is a Jealous God, part 2


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, MD, July 20, 2003

The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)

In the sermon last week the subject of zeal was introduced, and the general principles relating to it were discussed at some length. We saw how the Doctrines of the New Church tell us that zeal, regarded in itself, is “the fire of love blazing” (CL 358).

When someone, be it the Lord, or one of us, is zealous, it is love acting forcefully. However, anger is also love acting forcefully, although it in this case it is an evil love which acts. When we act from zeal to protect something we love, we do not appear loving to others, but rather we may appear ready to kill for the sake of what is precious to us because anger and zeal appear the same in our outward actions. We should note that because zeal involves emotional heat and activity that it is not the highest degree of love, but rather the effect of that love burning in the lower parts of the mind.

As we can note from our text and many other references in the Old Testament, it is often said of Jehovah in the Word that He is angry, or wrathful, that He avenges, punishes, and casts into hell. These are simply the ways the Lord’s zeal for the salvation of the human race appeared to the writers of the Old Testament, for love can, and does, appear as anger when it burns brightly. (See CL 366)

As has said before, zeal is love protecting that which it loves with all the strength it possesses. It is useful for us to realize that love is not just a passive, warm and fuzzy feeling, but that it is capable of great deeds to protect what it regards to be of value. When we are speaking of the zeal to protect what is holy and delightful in marriage in particular, zeal is called jealousy.

Jealousy is one of those words that is so heavily loaded with connotations that today most people regard jealousy as something unhealthy, something that should be avoided. But the doctrines tell us that jealousy can be “just” when it is the love of protecting what is good in marriage, that is, when it is a spiritual love expressing itself. The jealousy that is to be shunned is that which comes from purely natural origins.

The Writings tell us that “just jealousy” is with married partners who love each other mutually. In such a marriage, jealousy is the just and prudent zeal that each has lest their heavenly state be harmed or violated by enemies of the marriage without or within; to protect what is precious and innocent in their relationship. On the other hand, unjust jealousy exists with those who are suspicious by nature and have a mind that is not entirely rational, but instead see threats where there are none.

But we find today that any kind of jealousy has a bad name. We are encouraged to get rid of such feelings in the interests of our mental health. But reflect for a moment about what is really being suggested: that we not respond to attacks on our marriages! In the interest of being “modern” and “forward thinking” we are encouraged to believe that a little judicious unfaithfulness can be helpful (!) to a marriage by introducing freshness and variety to replace boredom. How often do literature and the theatre show us the scene of the young man or woman contemplating their upcoming marriage and their horror as they realize that they will be evermore limited to just one partner – and we are supposed to feel sorry for them! Such ideas could come from no other place than the hell of adulteries.

Since zeal and jealousy are both forms of love defending themselves, it follows that each person’s zeal or jealousy will vary according to the quality of his loves, that a person whose loves are for what is good and true will fight with justice and judgment to protect what is innocent, while those who have loves that are for what is evil and false will rather fight to defend their own loves of self and the world. (See CL 362)

The leading principle that helps us to distinguish between proper zeal and anger is that the zeal of a good love never attacks, but only defends, while anger will attack without warning.

The second principle is that the zeal of a good love dies down instantly and becomes mild once the attack against it is stopped; while the anger that comes from an evil love seethes on and does not stop when the attack does.

The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church tell us, as mentioned above, that the zeal of conjugial love is called jealousy. (See CL 367) The zeal to protect the love between husband and wife burns more brightly than any other form of zeal, because Conjugial love, the lovely, mutual, spiritual, eternal love between a husband and wife, is the love of loves. It is the highest love because it binds the man and the woman together into a unity, a whole, where each contributes that which the other lacks and yearns for.

Marriage is the highest of human loves because it is an image of how the Divine Love land Divine Wisdom in God came together to create the universe. The Divine Love in God wanted someone to love, and the Divine Wisdom of God created a plan whereby, over billions of years, a universe was created to support human life. People were then put into that universe to learn truth and freely choose which of those truths to make their own, thus creating their own individual characters which would last to eternity. Once that work was done, the natural body was allowed to die, and they could begin their spiritual life to eternity in heaven with God.

Marriage is the greatest of human loves because it mirrors God’s creation of the universe. The feminine represents Divine Love, the masculine Divine Wisdom, and when they come together in marriage, they “create” new life. The delights of procreation in marriage are the greatest of all delights because they correspond to the conjunction of the Divine Good with the Divine truth in the creation of the universe. Our delight in rearing children corresponds to the Lord’s delight in helping the angels of heaven to grow spiritually to eternity. We have been created by God to share in His Divine work of creating a heaven from the human race, and therefore He has created us so that we also share in that delight.

Since marriage is so holy, and its delights so precious, the love that protects them from harm is, or should be, the strongest of all. It is certainly true in the marriages of angels, and we can work toward that goal in our own earthly marriages. In order to understand the church’s teachings about just jealousy in marriage, we need to understand the difference between the natural love of a partner, and the spiritual love of a partner.

The doctrines teach that jealousy is just, and spiritual with monogamists, because only those who are monogamists can receive spiritual conjugial love — however, that does not mean that those who have only one married partner therefore have spiritual marriages; for in the Christian world, where only monogamous marriages are allowed, yet still spiritual marriage love exists with only a few.

When the Writings speak about marriage, they divide all of us into two groups: those who are monogamists, and those who are polygamists. When they do so, however, they are not necessarily making the distinction based upon the number of partners that a particular person has, but rather upon that person’s attitude towards marriage. After all, how much difference is there between a person who regards marriage as a purely natural arrangement that may be ended upon the mutual agreement of the partners, with a new marriage to be entered into immediately, and someone who has all his partners at the same time? Is there any spiritual difference between polygamy and serial marriages? To take the point one step farther, how much difference is there between the person who has several partners all at once and the person who is married and has an adulterous relationship; or the person who has remained entirely faithful for the fear of the loss of reputation, but delights in fantasies of other partners? All these people have one thing in common: their view that marriage is a purely natural thing that is for the sake of their own natural delight; sexual gratification; production of heirs; effective management of the home. Such a person can be jealous in the protection of the marriage, but what is it that is protected? Possessions only, nothing of spiritual value.

On the other hand, a husband and wife who love each other spiritually know that there is far more to marriage than physical comforts and pleasures, and they are each looking to the Lord so that they can grow spiritually, and they know that as each individually works to shun evils as sins and draw closer to the Lord, they will inevitably be drawn closer and closer to each other as well. Such people have a great deal invested in their marriage. They share loves, they share memories, and in this world they begin the process of becoming one angel. As this new spiritual being is created, it brings delights unknown to the purely natural, and it takes on a life of its own, this angel-to-be, for it is made up of the common loves of each of the married partners. In such a case, when the marriage is brought under attack from without, that union of loves is threatened, and it draws on the power of both partners to defend its life.

It is a paradox that within every love is a fear, the fear that it may perish. The young father tenderly holding his newborn child for the first time feels both tremendous love, and tremendous fear that through his clumsy strength he may do something to harm this fragile new life. The married couple that tenderly loves one another also fear that their love may perish or be harmed, and if something does happen to cause their love to diminish they feel as much grief as if a human being had died. The fear that love may be harmed is called jealousy, but it is a just and sound zeal with partners who love each other, because it is a fear of the loss of eternal heavenly joy, and it is also just and proper because it acts as a guard and protection against the temptations of adultery. (See CL 371) From conjugial love comes the blessedness of their souls, the happiness of their minds, and the pleasure of their bodies; and because these remain with them to eternity, there is fear for each other’s eternal happiness.

While with people who love each other dearly, jealousy is both an expression and protection of their love for each other, with married partners who do not love each other, jealousy is caused by many different circumstances, some of which are actually forms of mental illness. (See CL 373) The main reason why people who do not love each other are yet jealous is that their personal feelings are tied up with the image that they present to their family, friends, and business associates. Specifically, men identify sexual activity with their self-image of manliness, and if a man’s wife is committing adultery, he may be jealous not for the sake of his marriage, but for the sake of his own reputation of manliness, his anger is from the implied criticism of his sexual ability. There are other, similar, reasons, such as the fear of bringing dishonor to the family name through scandal, and the fear of having ones domestic financial arrangements destroyed. With some people, both men and women, their jealousy arises from a tendency to be suspicious and to believe that their fantasies are reality. (See CL 374) They believe their partners to be unfaithful when they do no more than to speak with others of the opposite sex. If such fantasies are cherished for very long, they have the affect of inviting spirits of a like nature into the mind, and once invited in this way, they can be removed only with difficulty. This means, of course, that the hells have made a home in the mind, and that is a strong indication of what kind of spiritual company such a person will keep once he or she reaches the spiritual world.

On the opposite extreme is the equally sad case of the person who has no jealousy at all, no fire to protect what is good in his marriage. This, like inappropriate jealousy, is also from a variety of causes, for example the belief that marriage is nothing more than an arrangement to establish legal heirs which may be produced through the expression of natural desire, that in itself marriage is nothing more than a way of having sexual activity sanctioned by society. Those who have no regard for marriage, or their partner, cannot feel jealousy if either is threatened.

Another reason why some feel no jealousy is that they have come to the belief that since everyone eventually commits adultery, it only increases the hurt to watch the partner for signs of indiscretion; that it is better not to know. And so, such a person allows the love for the partner to die so that it cannot be threatened.

There are many other reasons why some people have no desire to protect their marriages enumerated in the work Conjugial Love, but the essential element in all of them is that such people do not wish to protect their marriages because they do not see that there is anything valuable or eternal in marriage, but they believe that marriage is entirely a matter of civil law.

We all experience the flame of anger from time to time. We are angry with our partners, our children, our friends, our business associates. We attack with words, or perhaps even strike out. And more often than not we regret our actions. We feel guilt and humiliation that we have lost control.

The teachings about zeal and jealousy that have been presented last Sunday and today may help us in such times, because we may be able to look at our anger and see if it is just or unjust, to see if we were in fact acting properly in defense of something good, or if we actually have done something wrong that must be set right. We do this by applying the two principles of zeal to the individual situation.

First of all, we have to ask ourselves if we struck out first, or if we were defending ourselves, for the first principle is that a good love never attacks, but only defends what is good. And if we pass the first test, we can then ask ourselves the second question: Did the anger die as soon as defense was no longer needed? Was there concern and charity towards the other? Or did the feeling continue to burn and smolder within for a long time? If it did, then the feeling was unjustified, and was from selfish motives that need to be sought out, repented of, and put off.

So let us be aware that the Lord has given us powerful tools to protect what is most precious to human life, the mutual, spiritual love of one man with one woman. Let us use the knowledge that He has given us in the Word to use these tools correctly, and to valiantly defend and protect that precious jewel of life, conjugial love. AMEN

First Lesson: Josh 24:14-28

“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” {16} So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; {17} “for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. {18} “And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” {19} But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. {20} “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” {21} And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” {22} So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” {23} “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” {24} And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” {25} So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. {26} Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. {27} And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” {28} So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance. Amen.

Second Lesson: John 2:13-22

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {14} And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. {15} When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. {16} And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” {17} Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” {18} So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” {19} Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” {20} Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” {21} But He was speaking of the temple of His body. {22} Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. Amen.

Third Lesson: Conjugial Love 375

There are, in addition, regional ethnic groups which suffer a jealous morbidity more than others. They imprison their wives, despotically keeping them from any converse with men, closing them off from the sight of men through the windows by covering these with hanging lattices, and terrifying them with threats of death if they should detect a reason for the suspicion they harbor. Likewise other hard things, which the wives there endure at the hands of their jealous husbands.

2) The reasons for this kind of jealousness, however, are of two types. One is an imprisonment and suffocation of their thoughts in regard to spiritual matters connected with the church. The other is an inbred lust for exercising vengeance.

As regards the first reason, namely, an imprisonment and suffocation of their thoughts in regard to spiritual matters connected with the church, what effect this has may be concluded from what we have shown previously, that everyone’s conjugial love depends on the state of the church in him (no. 130), and because the church comes from the Lord, that that love comes solely from the Lord (no. 131). Consequently, when, instead of the Lord, people turn to men living and dead and call on them, it follows that their state is not a state of the church with which conjugial love can be allied; and still less so when their minds are terrorized into that worship by threats of a horrible incarceration. So it is that their thoughts are forcibly imprisoned and suffocated, and at the same time their speech; and when these are suffocated, ideas flow in that are either contrary to the church or imaginary substitutes for the church. These in turn give rise to nothing else but a state of heat for loose women and icy coldness towards having a partner. And when these two exist in the same person, from them flows such an ungoverned fire of jealousness as described.

3) As regards the second reason, namely, an inbred lust for exercising vengeance, this completely halts any influx of conjugial love, absorbs it and swallows it up, and turns its delight, which is a heavenly delight, into a delight in vengeance, which is hellish, and which is directed first of all at the wife. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

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