Why Emotions?


Thank you to those who responded to my question about topics for blog posts.

Some responses asked for content about emotions, particularly in light of the serious times in which we live. So, I will begin with a series of posts about emotions. A reading list was also requested, and if you know me you know that I love to share books and articles whenever possible, so that will definitely be posted soon.

Emotions, where to begin? Why do we have emotions? Sometimes it seems like things would be easier without them. But life would also be pretty dull without them. But why do we have them? The Bible says that people are made in the image of God.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28 NASB1995 (also see James 3:9).

It does not specifically say that we have emotions because God has them. But where else would they come from? Perhaps the Fall of Mankind into sin (Gen. 3, Rom. 5 :12)? No. Jesus was not sinful, He never sinned, yet He also experienced powerful emotions.

Recently I was at a memorial service. I went to be with a friend whose family member had died. It’s difficult to know what to do or say in that case. I began reading John 11 which describes Jesus’ response to His close friend dying. You may remember the verse, “Jesus wept” Yep, that passage. It also says there that Jesus was “…deeply moved in spirit and was troubled…” (John 11:34), and “…again being moved deeply within…” (John 11:38). We could add to thus the many places where Scripture describes God the Father feeling and acting with emotion.

So, if you will accept it, God has emotions. We have them because we are made in His image. But what do we do with the darn things?

If you have listened to me teach over any length of time, you may have noticed that I sometimes comment on the general trend in our culture to put an emphasis on feelings over critical thinking. Today, many people feel all the feelings but don’t think all the thoughts. I see that trend as directly related to much of the violence we have now, such as the great increase in crime. This message is sounding loudly and often in our culture. The message is: “Don’t think. Feel!!!”

Our emotional capacity comes from God. Does that mean that we are slaves to our emotions? Are we not responsible for them? No. We know that even if we don’t always feel that way. We often find difficulty in this responsibility.  

Take for instance, love. We’ve all heard from the pulpit many times, “Love is not a feeling. Love is sacrifice. Love is commitment.” The last two sentences are true. But can love be devoid of feeling? Let’s say that I found a dead bug in my woodshed. I bring the bug to you and I challenge you, “Love this bug!” Could you do that? You’d have to have a good reason. Let’s say you were going to be rewarded somehow, now you are motivated (in theory). You could make sacrifices for it. You could become committed to its wellbeing. You could will yourself to be devoted to it. But would you describe that as love? No. Emotions do have a relationship with what we perceive to be true. But we must also be aware of the destruction emotions can bring without self-control.

   I will have more to say about this in future posts. I’ll leave you with some comments on Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37.

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…’

   This is a much beloved and sometimes misunderstood verse. Please note that heart, soul, and mind are each used here. Sometimes in Scripture the heart is used synonymously with the mind, referring not only to our feelings but our thinking. But they’re distinguished here. The heart is sometimes called the seat of emotions. More simply, the heart feels, the mind thinks. And we could perhaps debate if any of us could ever love God completely with either heart or soul or mind. We see failures in this area, even when we try our best. These failures lead us to the knowledge that we need a Savior. But that’s another topic. For now, I simply want to note that Jesus does not give an either/or. The listing of these parts of our person calls for a comprehensive love for God. That call for love also specifically notes where our love may be lacking.

We have a responsibility to love God with our thinkers, our feelers, and everything we have. We cannot dismiss thinking and only focus on feeling. We cannot dismiss feeling and only focus on thinking. In future posts I hope to address how we handle specific emotions that we experience. The short answer is by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit. But we will look at Bible passages that specifically address sadness, anger, and others.

Until then unless He comes.

    Andy Stacy