Our God is a jealous God. James wrote that God is jealous over the spirits (or perhaps the Spirit) he put into each of us. This means he desires unwavering commitment from his people – just as a husband would desire this from his wife.
As Christians, we are in a covenant relationship with God. And he doesn’t want us to turn back to the world. “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
There is an “in” and “out” kind of dichotomy here. God doesn’t want us to try to straddle the line. Those with passion don’t think highly of line-straddlers!
I was reading today about former President George W. Bush, who said on one hand that he had called Joe Biden to congratulate him on becoming the president-elect but on the other hand said President Trump ought to pursue various legal means to ensure the election was fair.
I noticed President Bush immediately was criticized for his statement. It was noted he was trying to please both sides of the aisle.
Who are we trying to please – really? This is a question we are quick to answer: “God! Of course!” But we ought to think more deeply about this question.
James was sharply critical of what he called an “adulterous” group of Christians. They were trying to have it both ways. They were trying to be friends with the world while remaining faithful to God. But this was impossible. God demands full allegiance. He wants us to be all in for him, and the world constantly is trying to pull us away from him.
And we all stumble in many ways. James noted this (3:2). And absolute commitment to God is one of the ways in which we stumble. What hope do we have when facing this jealous God?
“But he gives more grace.”
If God were ruthlessly jealous – which he is – but not full of grace, we should be shaking in our boots. There would be no hope for us. At the same time, if God was full of grace but not jealous for our love in return, he would be a pretty weak and uncommitted kind of God.
But God is fully jealous – or zealous – for our love. And he gives us the grace needed to give our hearts fully to him. He gives us what he requires from us, as one ancient theologian has said.
So we lean into his grace. And we commit never to straddle the line.