By Tyson Thorne

March 13, 2024

GMM Large

On evening I was thinking about what God has done, and that he will do, that don’t align with my idea of logic. In the past I’ve brushed this off thinking, we are not given all the facts or details of the story, so sometimes we are not going to understand every little thing. But then another thought struck me, and I don’t know where it came from because it is so foreign to the way I normally think, but I wondered if God’s actions weren’t always based on logic. Maybe, sometimes, they were based on something else.

At an early age I learned a valuable lesson: emotions cannot be trusted.  To illustrate, sometimes doing the wrong thing feels really good, and sometimes doing the right thing can be gut wrenching. The problem stems from our dual nature. When our emotions arise from our righteous nature, or a moral base, then the emotional reaction is generally good. But when the emotional response is based on a falsehood, or our sin nature, then the actions we take are sinful and morally wrong. Therefore, we cannot trust our emotions.

I think most people understand this, and it is one force that moves us to push down, set aside, bottle up – chose your metaphor – our emotions. These are not the only forces, however. Another force grows out of an unlikely source: conservative evangelical churches. Since the early 20th century, these churches have emphasized intellectual Christianity. This was primarily due to external challenges to the church’s relevance in society. Atheist philosophers and scientists pushed ideas and theories that challenged the very existence of God, and the church rallied its best thinkers to formulate appropriate and truthful rebuttals. As a result, pastors taught their congregations how to overcome objections to the Bible and to God, which is a good thing to be sure, but taken together with the other forces we came to believe emotions are something to be suppressed, or ignored, or be ashamed of.

As an aside I’d mention that these church’s focus on intelligently understanding and communicating God’s Word and developing a Biblical worldview is of great value. It is of much greater value than those Christian churches that emphasize health and wealth, or spiritual empowerment through the inappropriate use of God’s gifts. We do need to renew our minds (Romans 12.2). What I’m saying is that we also need to renew our hearts so that we can not just know we should love others as we do ourselves (Matthew 22.39), but also be able to do it! And while love is not an emotion, it does evoke emotions and those emotions should be aligned with the first greatest commandment (Matthew 22.38).

That evening while I was thinking about all this it occurred to me, God has emotions too. We know what he delights in, we know what angers him, we know he loves us, we know he abhors iniquity, and we know he sometimes weeps (see Proverbs 6.19-.19). These are just a sample of God’s emotions; all throughout the Bible God exhibits a full range of emotions. The difference is there is no falsehood in God, no sin, so all of his emotions arise from righteousness and a moral base. For this reason, God can trust his emotions, and when he acts emotionally it is always a right action.

And that’s the epiphany I had. God can act emotionally. God never acts chaotically, but he can act emotionally and maybe this is why in some Bible passages I can’t find the logic or law behind his actions. If this is true, and I believe it is, it changes the way Christianity ought to approach Scripture and our own lives. Instead of suppressing or ignoring emotions, we ought to do a quick check to discern if they arise out of righteousness or sinfulness and decide how to act - or not act - accordingly.

I don’t know if this strikes you the way it does me, but this truth makes me want to read the Bible again. This time, instead of focusing on logic, or law or even intellectual stimulation I want to evaluate how God and people work out their emotions and out of their emotions; I think there is a lot to learn there. There are truths that could revolutionize how we approach living our Christian lives. There are truths there that may help us relate to God in a more mature and complete way. There are truths there that may help us represent God more accurately. Because of God’s goodness we can learn how to feel deeply and not respond sinfully. Paul tells us about righteous anger and warns us that in our anger we should be careful not to sin (Ephesians 4.26). Paul understood what I’m just now learning, that emotions are a part of God and he made us to have them too, so that we can be like him.

Moving forward I want to challenge myself and others to grow emotionally, but there are some warnings we should note as we do so. First, resist the urge to speak or react out of unchecked emotion. Take a beat to examine if the words you are about to speak or the actions you wish to take are coming from a moral base or a sinful one. Second, remember that no one wants to turn into a simpering, weepy whiner. “Follow your heart” is almost always bad advice; instead, follow the one who created your heart. Third, our desire should be to act out of the strength that is born from bringing our emotions under the authority of God. Finally, always keep in mind the goal is to become a more complete person, having the wisdom and understanding to identify another’s burden and the emotional and spiritual strength to carry it.

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