Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sweet(?) Emotion


          But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control. –Galatians 5:22a


     “You’re being too emotional!”

     Have you ever spoken these words or had them spoken to you? The implication, if not the actual intention, of this statement is that weakness is displayed by the person who is expressing his/her emotions. Is this true?

      In the reality shows that pollute television’s airwaves, people behave in the worst imaginable way, excusing their behavior with the words, “I’m just being honest about how I feel.”

     The subject of emotion surfaces regularly in the Battle of the Sexes. The female is accused of being ruled by her emotions, while the male is labeled insensitive and not in touch emotionally.       

     What does the Bible have to say about the emotions? The interesting fact is that the word “emotion” is not used in any of the major English translations except the New Living Translation (NLT). The Hebrew word usually translates “deeply moved, agitated or deeply stirred” in the other biblical translations.

     Is there then no counsel for the Christian to use in dealing with emotions? Of course, as we recognize the Bible to be the living and inerrant word of God, we understand that instruction is given in its pages for all aspects our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17) as well as for our salvation.

     Our first father and mother were created in perfection. The emotions are part of that creation. But we must remember that every part of our being was adversely affected by The Fall.  

     So the problem is not that we are emotional in nature. This is a gift from God and our emotions enrich our lives. However as sin corrupts our every thought and deed (Romans 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6), so our emotions may become the source of sin in our lives.

     Examples? We mentioned earlier that our relationships become emotional battlegrounds. What wife (even the Christian wife of a Christian husband) has not felt that her spouse belittles or ignores her feelings, treating them as unimportant?  What husband (even the Christian husband of a Christian wife) has not despaired at tearful, angry accusations of his insensitivity, while feeling that his spouse is using unreasonable, emotional outbursts to manipulate him?

     Our sin nature does not only poison our marital relationships but every portion of our lives where we interact with others. Thus, we hear of brothers estranged from brothers by anger or jealousy. We witness churches torn apart by pride and envy. And the sad fact is that our very culture glorifies this uncontrolled outpouring of emotion. It is our right, the argument goes, to express ourselves.

     As one whose life and relationships have in the past been marred by outbursts of anger, the best advice that I have ever received is this: “When you become angry, stop and ask yourself, ‘Why am I angry?’” To reflect on my anger and see the pride and selfishness fueling it is one of the most humbling things I have ever experienced.

     It is even more useful for us, as God’s children to reflect upon His Word. Galatians 5:22-26 is an especially relevant passage as we attempt to live our lives and experience the richness of emotion with which our God has blessed us without allowing those emotions to rule us and ruin us.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When our emotions are guided and informed by the fruit of the Spirit, this ideal can become reality.

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