They say Jealousy is the “green eyed monster.” What a powerful image! And it comes (as so many of our allusions in English) from Shakespeare. In his play “Othello” Iago warns Othello “O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” They say this comes from the fact that cats, usually green eyed, play with their prey before they kill it. It’s a reference to the inner torture of jealousy. And if you’ve ever been jealous or suffered from the jealousy of another, you know what that’s like.
But what if jealousy could be used for good?
Look at our lesson today in Romans 10:11-21; 11:1-2:
BRETHREN, the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
St. Paul has a challenge with the Roman parish. You see this parish is already, at this early date in Church History, a “mixed” parish. That is, it has both Gentile and Jewish Christians. Paul, a Jew by culture and religion, is the “Apostle to the Gentiles” but he also loves and cherishes his Jewish past. His wisdom to this community of different people is to focus them not on their differences (that would just turn them into another cultural ghetto) but to their common mission!
And he insists that God is using these new, Gentile, converts to stir up a bit of jealousy in the Jews! “Hey, you guys just got here and you are already showing us up with your zeal and your hunger for more!” And this is understandable. Converts have had to work hard to adopt, and be adopted, into their new situation, but those who have inherited this treasure of faith all too often take it for granted. So, those who’ve had the treasure their whole lives see these “newbies” passing them up! And this is the moment of conflict and danger!
The Converts can get arrogant and gloat and the Lifelong faithful can get insular and bitter. OR, they both could be protected from these community destroying maladies by remembering their common mission – to spread the Good News! How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news! It’s prioritizing our common mission that overcomes foolish pride and jealousy in all of us!
Today, are you jealous of the converts who seem to know more about the Faith than you do? Well, don’t just sit there! Go to Church! Read a book! Take a class! Ask questions! Learn! If you do this, you’ll remember our common mission to share this Good News and you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Have you heard about the “Bringing Orthodoxy to America National Missions and Evangelism Conference?” Yes, just go to the Conference Website and register! I’ll see you in Portland in October!