The Importance of Envy
“O thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine, till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” Amen.
Read Acts 5:12-16
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” (M. Robert Mulholland).
More than fifty years ago a Dutch missionary theologian writing about the essential characteristics of the Church said this: “The success of the work of missions and the work of evangelism depends upon the ability to arouse envy.” On the surface this seems a strange claim. After all, is not “envy” a negative thing, to be condemned and avoided?
Notice that the reaction of the population of Jerusalem to the terrible events we looked at yesterday is said to combine fear and admiration. The tragic deaths of Ananias and Sapphira prevented people from joining the community while they remained strangers to the Spirit’s transforming power; yet, at the same time, that community was “highly regarded by the people” (13b). Might we say that they were envious of what they saw within this community and recognized that its alternative way of life was profoundly attractive and desirable?
The Dutch theologian responsible for the provocative statement quoted above went on to explain it in these words: “All work, however costly and well-organized, that is not rooted in a church that has found the secret of mutual love, is in the long run powerless” (J.H. Bavinck). Today, we are tempted to put our trust in technological sophistication—better websites, professionally designed sound systems, standards of presentation that can match those in boardrooms and concert arenas. None of this is wrong in itself; however, without the existence of a community of people whose love for each other is displayed in the real world before the eyes of those who are hungering for something different, our witness will be ineffective. On the other hand, the sheer beauty of an alternative Christian community results in “more and more men and women” turning to Christ and being added to his Church (14).
Give thanks for people whose lives of faith and love have influenced your journey, and ask for God’s help to live so that other people are envious of the life you have.
Sovereign Lord, guide me and comfort me, because I need both Your direction and consolation. Then, my ordered life will demonstrate to all the beauty of Your peace.