Emotions are the fireworks of life. They can fill our days with a burst of color, or they can make us recoil from their unexpected explosions. I am convinced that some of us are emotional junkies, constantly in search of the next emotional high.
Our culture, like a shady drug dealer, is glad to slip us the latest trend to ignite our passions. These pushers get us hooked on feelings of lust, self-indulgence, violence, revenge and insult. These powerful feelings fling their users to emotional heights, but in the process they destroy their ability to truly feel. A society of cynical, self-destruction is the result.
However, emotions are not evil. God is an emotional being. He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), become angry (Heb. 3:10; Ps. 95:10), is capable of great zeal (Isa. 9:7), deep love (John 3:16), and abounding joy (Luke 15:7). The reason we have emotions in the first place is because we are created in the image of God. We reveal the divine nature when we express emotions rightly. How do we do that?
Jesus expressed emotions with perfection. The accounts of His life reveal a full colored picture of a Man who felt deeply. I count over twenty emotions Jesus felt and expressed. He is our model, not only for the truths which fill our minds, but for the passions that ignite our hearts. The emotions we learn from Jesus don’t fade over time. They are felt more deeply and cause us to live more meaningfully.
What moved Jesus to emotion?
The thing which most often aroused an emotional response in the heart of Jesus was seeing people in physical distress. It is surprising that He who came to deal with our sins would be so moved by our suffering.
When the crowds came carrying the lame, blind, and diseased, it broke Jesus’ heart to see people in such physical distress (Matt. 14:14). Others saw the physically disabled as curiosities to talk about or spectacles to avoid (John 9), but Jesus was moved with compassion to touch the leper, talk to the blind, befriend the lame, handle the diseased, and comfort the grieving (Luke 7:13; John 11:35-36). The physically disabled and diseased were not disruptions to Jesus’ schedule or misfits to be avoided. They were the objects of His passionate concern.
Our emotions need to be recalibrated to care for those in physical distress. This will affect how we visit someone in the hospital, care for someone in their home, talk to someone who is disabled, pray for someone who is sick, or weep with someone who is grieving. Those are emotions worth having.
Care for Those who are Spiritually Seeking
Jesus didn’t see people as consumers to be exploited or problems to be avoided. He saw people as eternally lost and in need of direction (Mark 6:34). This is why Jesus’ teaching was never arid or cold, because He cared about people’s souls. He raised His voice and He called for attention, “Listen!” “He who has ears, let Him hear!” (Matt. 11:15; 13:9). He turned over tables, flung whips, and sat hungry by a well, all in an effort to bring souls to God (John 2:13-17; 4:1-26).
Emotion has a rightful place in sharing the gospel. Paul’s pen often blazed with passionate concern as He begged and pleaded for people to accept the truth (2 Cor. 2:8; 5:20; et al.). Passion is often missing in our evangelistic efforts. We understand the truth of the gospel, but people don’t get the sense that we are passionately concerned about their souls and deeply devoted to our God. If there was ever a message that deserves to be presented with some passion it is the gospel.
It is exciting to talk to someone who wants to learn the truth and worship God. It is a bit messier to care about the person who has grown spiritually weak, rebellious, or immature. Yet, Jesus’ heart broke over believers who departed.
Jesus wept for the city that crucified Him (Luke 19:41-42); He loved a young man who refused to follow Him (Mark 10:21); He was angry and grieved by the hard hearts of the religious leaders (Mark 3:5); and He pictured himself as the shepherd who was willing to cross the wilderness in search of the one sheep who strayed (Luke 15:4-7).
It hurts to care for the spiritual porcupines among us. We all know them. Some are weak, others are worldly, and some are acting ungodly and rebellious. We want to run from such. Yet, Jesus used His emotion to care for them, and we must too (James 5:19-20).
Care about Obeying God
Jesus clearly experienced His strongest emotions at the end of His life. His feelings poured out like a flood in Gethsemane. He told His friends, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” (Matt. 26:38), and “he began to be troubled and deeply distressed” (Mark 14:33). He prayed so earnestly that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He was betrayed, beaten and crucified, and cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” and “I thirst!” and finally, “It is finished!” (Mark 15:34; John 19:28,30).
When you see the tears and sweat in the Garden and the blood on the cross, don’t just think about the pain, see His passion. Jesus was so passionate about obeying His Father He willingly sacrificed everything else to do it (Matt. 26:42; John 12:27)!
Oh, that we would capture such a passion. Where we gladly leave behind our comforts and will to do the will of our Father. This is the greatest use of our emotions!
Don’t buy the poisoned emotions the world is selling. They will make you sick. Try expressing your emotions the way Jesus did and see the world change.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
You might like to also read the following article about the role of emotion in life and worship which was previously published on Focus.