Thursday, June 07, 2007

human emotions

Jesus is said by the prophet to be "a man of suffering, and familiar with pain" (Isaiah 53:3). We don't read of an emotionless Jesus in the gospel. Sometimes he seems perturbed at the slowness or lack of heart he finds in people toward God and each other. A few times he is angry. And he weeps. I can't help but think that part of Jesus's appeal to despised tax-collectors and "sinners" was his humanness. He was a normal human being, really more normal according to God's standard than any human who had walked the face of the earth.

Human emotions in a modernist, individualistic context in which we, in the western world still live in part, gives short shrift and often none at all to emotions. While there is such a thing as one "wearing their emotions on their sleeves", I'm afraid this is too often just a declaration of independence from emotions and any person who is not afraid to show them, whether happy or sad, expressing anger or affection. Within Modernism itself was the reaction against human rationality trumping everything, found in Romanticisim. And Postmodernism for all its faults is also symptomatic of a recovering addiction to human rationality and recovery into a more holistic view of humanity, though often resulting in other equally destructive paths, in the light of the truth as it is in Jesus.

Human emotions. What do we do with them? In Jesus we bring them before God and in community. We grieve, we lament, we love and are at times angry, though hopefully slow to become angry. All emotions we need to bring before God, like the psalmist of old, and see them mediated in Christ and his work, and thus becoming a sweet offering to God (see Bonhoeffer's Life Together as he expresses something like this in a much better, fuller way).

The Holy Spirit gives us self-control, part of the fruit of the Spirit, so that our emotions are not to run roughshod over ourselves or others. There is a time to weep, laugh, mourn and dance (Ecclesiastes 3). But all these should be mediated through Jesus Christ., so that our emotions and his are more and more one. And this is lived in context of us being one Body in this world.

What thoughts might you add on emotions? Are you considered too emotional by some, like I have been? Certainly my emotions have not always been coming from a heart that is much at all like our Lord. But have you noticed a reticence by others or yourself to express one's true emotions? And why do you think this exists in our western, and in my case, American context?


L.L. Barkat said...

I like to go to the Old Testament for my emotions... Wisdom dancing and clapping at the Creator's side (in Proverbs), David dancing before the Lord, Jeremiah weeping. What a rich picture of the range of feeling God has given us.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Great point. We need all of Scripture and the Old Testament is certainly replete with instances of strong human emotion, nearly the full gamut, it seems to me.

That is part of what makes the Bible a special book, of course it being the Word of God, besides that. But it is so human as well as so divine.

Thanks for bringing that up!

Kim said...

Hi Ted,

Hey it was awesome to see a picture of you!!! Now I can put a face with all the wisdom.

I've come to believe that emotions are the voice of the human spirit. You mentioned self-control, but also listed as fruit are love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness...all emotions.

As western/American men we have to deal with the fact that we are encouraged by our culture (even Christian culture) to suppress and even ignore our emotions. That they they are feminine, that they are not to be trusted, fleeting and that they are to be subjugated to "fact" and "faith" (remember the four spiritual laws tract?) All of our movie heros are stoic, steely eyed, emotionless (except for anger) and violent. But this does cross cultures. Consider the "stiff upper lip" of the English and the "inscrutible" Asian. So, I believe it's a man thing. Women are much more in tune to their emotions than men. I believe that's one reason why God called them "help."

To be spiritual leaders we must begin to know our own spirits, how to gauge the spirits of others, how to minister to other's spirits in a way that will lead them to maturity. If emotions are the voice of the human spirit, we really need to understand our own and other's emotions.

If in any given situation, we ask ourselves "what am I feeling?" and ask ourselves "Did Jesus ever feel this way?" we'll usually be able to say "yes, He did." Say for example, I feel misunderstood. I know Jesus must have felt misunderstood when he said "Destroy this temple and I'll raise it again in three days." The feeling/emotion is the same after 2,000 years! I am closer to and connected with Jesus in a way I never was before. I can empathise with others who feel misunderstood. I can try not to be the cause of others feeling misunderstood.

Ted, I hope you don't think I'm trying to teach you anything that I think you don't already know. I just get excited about this stuff and get carried away. Hope your readers might get excited too. Sorry for the long post.

Peace, Kim

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Please don't apologize for the length of your comment. I appreciate it and find your thoughts interesting and stimulating.

Thanks much!