Christians and Emotions
Some of our enemies accuse us of being unemotional, unfeeling intellectuals. They ask us (not that they
want answers, but they want to accuse us) if we have ever cried over a lost soul or have ever deeply felt
sorrow over our sins.
This post is to give the readers our view of Christians' emotions.
What are emotions? Emotions are hard to define. In fact, they're so hard to define that Webster's Dictionary uncharacteristically defines an emotion by some examples of emotion! Here's the definition: "Any one of the states designated as fear, anger, disgust, grief, joy, surprise, yearning, etc."! Interesting, eh? "Feeling" is sometimes used as a synonym.
The basic emotions (from admittedly secular sources) are love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. Under each of these basic categories are sub-categories:
Love - affection, longing, compassion, caring, liking, fondness
Joy - happiness, cheerfulness, excitement, contentment, relief, zeal, optimism
Surprise - amazement, astonishment
Anger - irritation, disgust, contempt, hate, frustration, rage
Sadness - anguish, despair, despondency, sorrow, disappointment, shame, loneliness, humiliation, pity, sympathy
Fear - horror, terror, panic, nervousness, anxiety, worry, dread
Do we Christians have such emotions? We certainly do. The Bible speaks of Christians having such emotions.
All we have to do is look in Nave's Topical Bible to get some Scriptures:
AFFECTIONS - Should be supremely set upon God Deu 6:5; Mar 12:30 Should be set upon: The commandments of God Psa 19:8-10; Psa 119:20; Psa 119:97; Psa 119:103; Psa 119:167 The house and worship of God 1Ch 29:3; Psa 26:8; Psa 27:4; Psa 84:1-2 The people of God Psa 16:3; Rom 12:10; 2Co 7:13-16; 1Th 2:8 Heavenly things Col 3:1-2 Should be zealously engaged for God Psa 69:9; Psa 119:139; Gal 4:18 Christ claims the first place in Mat 10:37; Luk 14:26 Enkindled by communion with Christ Luk 24:32 Blessedness of making God the object of Psa 91:14 Should not grow cold Psa 106:12-13; Mat 24:12; Gal 4:15; Rev 2:4 Of saints, supremely set on God Psa 42:1; Psa 73:25; Psa 119:10
JOY - Instances of Joy: Of Moses and the Israelites, when Pharaoh and his army were destroyed Ex 15:1-22 Of Deborah and the Israelites, when Sisera was overthrown Judg 5 Of Jephthah's daughter, when he returned from his victory over the Ammonites Jdg 11:34 Of Hannah, when Samuel was born 1Sa 2:1-11 Of Naomi, when Boaz showed kindness to Ruth Rth 2:20; Rth 4:14 Of the Jews: After hearing anew, the word of God Neh 8:9-18 When they turned away from idolatry 2Ch 15:14-15; 2Ch 23:18; 2Ch 23:21; 2Ch 29:30; 2Ch 29:36; 2Ch 30:21; 2Ch 30:23; 2Ch 30:26 When the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated Neh 12:43 When the foundation of the second temple was laid Ezr 3:11-13 Of David, over the offerings of the princes and people for the house of God 1Ch 29:10-19 Of Jews, over the hanging of Haman Est 8:15-16; Est 7:10 Of Elizabeth, when Mary visited her Luke 1:5-44 Of Mary, when she visited Elizabeth Luk 1:46-56 Of Zecharias, when John was born Luk 1:67-79 Of angels, when Jesus was born Luk 2:13-14 Of the shepherds, when they saw the infant Jesus Luk 2:20 Of the magi Mat 2:10 Of Simeon, when Jesus was presented in the temple Luk 2:28-32 Of the disciples, because the devils were subject to them Luk 10:17 Of the father, when his prodigal son returns Luk 15:20-32 Of angels, when sinners repent Luk 15:7; Luk 15:10 Of the disciples, when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem Mat 21:8-9; Mar 11:8-10 Of the women who returned from the Lord's sepulcher Mat 28:8 Of the disciples: After the resurrection of Jesus Luk 24:41 In the temple after the ascension of Jesus Luk 24:53 In the temple because they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost Act 2:46-47 Of the impotent man, healed by Peter Act 3:8 Of Paul, when he went up to Jerusalem Act 20:22-24 Of Paul and Silas, in the jail at Philippi Act 16:25 Of Rhoda, when she heard Peter at the gate Act 12:14 Of the disciples at Jerusalem, when Peter told them about the conversion of Cornelius and other Gentiles Act 11:18 Of Barnabas, when he saw the success of the gospel at Antioch Act 11:22-23 Of Paul and the Corinthians, because the excommunicated member repented 2Co 1:24; 2Co 2:3 Of Paul and Titus, because of the hospitality of the Corinthians 2Co 7:13; 2Co 8:6; Rom 15:32; 1Co 16:18 Of the Macedonians, when they made a contribution for the Christians at Jerusalem 2Co 8:2 Of Paul, when he prayed for the Philippians Phi 1:4 Of Thessalonians, when they believed Paul's gospel 1Th 1:6 Of Paul, rejoicing over his converts 1Th 2:19-20; 1Th 3:9; Phm 1:7 Of early Christians, when they believed in Jesus 1Pe 1:8-9
HAPPINESS - Happiness of the righteous General references Deu 33:29; Job 5:17-27; Psa 36:8; Psa 40:8; Psa 63:5; Psa 128:1-2; Psa 133:1; Psa 144:15; Psa 146:5; Pro 3:13-18; Pro 14:21; Pro 16:20; Pro 28:14; Pro 29:18; Ecc 2:24-26; Ecc 3:12-13; Ecc 3:22; Isa 12:2-3; Mat 5:3-12; Rom 5:2; 2Co 12:10; Phi 4:7; 1Pe 3:14; 1Pe 4:12-13
ZEAL - General references Jos 24:15-16; 2Sa 24:24-25; 1Ki 9:4; 1Ki 15:14; 1Ch 29:17; 2Ch 15:15; 2Ch 19:3; Ezr 7:23; Job 16:19; Psa 42:1-2; Psa 60:4; Psa 96:2-3; Psa 96:10; Psa 119:139; Pro 11:30; Ecc 9:10; Isa 58:12; Isa 60:1; Isa 62:6-7; Dan 12:3; Mic 5:7; Hab 2:2; Hag 2:4-5; Zec 14:20-21; Mat 5:13-16; Mar 4:21-22; Luk 8:16-17; Luk 22:32-33; Joh 6:27; Joh 9:4; Act 10:42; Act 26:29; Rom 1:8-9; Rom 7:22; Rom 12:11; 1Co 5:8; 1Co 7:29-34; 1Co 13:3; 1Co 14:12; 1Co 15:58; 2Co 4:8-10; 2Co 4:13; 2Co 4:16-18; 2Co 7:11; 2Co 9:2; Gal 4:18; Gal 6:9; 2Th 3:13; Eph 5:15-16; Eph 6:14-20; Phi 1:27-28; Phi 2:15; Phi 3:4-14; Phi 3:20; Col 4:5; Tit 2:14; Tit 3:1; Heb 10:34; Heb 11:15-16; Heb 11:24-27; Heb 13:13-15; Jam 5:19-20; 1Pe 2:2; 2Pe 3:14; 2Pe 1:10-11; Jud 1:3; Jud 1:22-23; Rev 3:19; Rev 5:4-5; Rev 22:17 Exemplified Exo 32:31-32; Num 10:29; Num 11:29; Deu 9:18-19; Jos 24:14-16; 1Sa 17:26; 1Ki 8:42-43; 2Ch 6:33; 1Ki 22:14; Job 6:10; Psa 40:7-10; Psa 51:13; Psa 69:7-9; Psa 71:17-18; Psa 94:16; Psa 101:8; Psa 119:53; Psa 119:126; Psa 119:136; Psa 119:139; Psa 119:158; Psa 9:19-20; Psa 74:10; Psa 74:18-23; Psa 115:1-2; Pro 28:4; Ecc 12:9-10; Isa 2:3; Isa 2:5; Isa 6:8; Isa 59:17; Isa 62:1; Jer 9:1-3; Jer 13:17; Jer 17:16; Jer 18:20; Jer 20:9; Jer 26:12-15; Eze 9:4; Eze 44:15; Dan 3:17-18; Mic 3:8; Mic 7:1-2; Hab 1:2-4; Mar 5:19-20; Mar 6:6; Mar 14:29-31; Mar 16:20; Luk 1:15-17; Luk 19:41-42; Mat 23:37; Joh 1:40-42; Joh 1:45-46; Joh 4:34-35; Act 4:8-13; Act 4:18-20; Act 4:31; Act 4:33; Act 4:2; Act 5:42; Act 5:21; Act 5:25; Act 5:29-32; Act 6:4; Act 6:10; Act 8:4; Act 8:35; Act 8:12; Act 8:25; Act 8:30; Act 8:40; Act 11:19-20; Act 11:24; Act 11:26; Act 18:24-28; Rom 1:11; Rom 9:1-3; Rom 10:1; Rom 15:18-21; 2Co 5:9; 2Co 6:11; 2Co 8:1-5; 2Co 8:16-18; 2Co 12:20-21; Eph 4:25-26; Eph 4:32; Phi 1:12-18; Phi 2:22; Phi 2:26; Phi 2:30; 1Co 16:10; Phi 4:3; Col 4:7-11; Col 1:7; Eph 6:21; 1Th 1:2-8; 1Th 3:1-2; 2Pe 1:12-13; 2Pe 1:15; 2Pe 2:4-5; 3Jo 1:4-7; Jud 1:3; Rev 3:19 Instances of religious zeal: Moses Exo 2:12; Exo 11:8; Exo 32:19-20 Phinehas Num 25:7-13; Psa 106:30 Joshua Num 11:27-29; Jos 7:6; Jos 8:28-29 Gideon Judg 6:11-32 Jephthah Jdg 11:30-31; Jdg 11:34-39 Samuel 1Sa 12:23; 1Sa 15:11; 1Sa 15:35; 1Sa 16:1 Saul 1Sa 14:38-44 David 2 Sam 6; 2Sa 7:2; 2Sa 8:11-12 Elijah 1Ki 19:10 Obadiah 1Ki 18:3-4 Jehoash 2Ki 12:2-16 Jehu 2 Kin 9-10 Jehoiada 2Ki 11:4-17; 2 Chr 23:1-17 Asa 1Ki 15:11-15; 2Ch 14:1-5; 2Ch 14:15 Jehoshaphat 2Ch 17:3-10; 2Ch 19:1-11 Hezekiah 2 Chr 30-31; Isa 37:1 Josiah 2 Kin 22-23; 2Ch 34:3-7; 2Ch 34:29-33 Priests 1Ch 9:13; Ezr 8:17-18 Ezra Ezr 7:10; Ezra 9-10 Nehemiah Neh 4:5; Neh 8; Neh 13:7-9; Neh 13:15-28 Jeremiah Jer 25:3-4 Shepherds Luk 2:17-18 Anna Luk 2:38 Andrew and Philip Joh 1:41-46 Two blind men proclaiming the miracle of healing, contrary to the injunction of Jesus Mat 9:30-31 The restored leper Mar 1:44-45 The healed deaf mute Mar 7:36 Peter rebuking Jesus Mat 16:22 Samaritan woman Joh 4:28-30; Joh 4:39 Peter Acts 2:14-40; Act 3:12-26 John See John, 1. The Baptist Paul and Barnabas Act 11:22-26; Act 14:14-15 Phebe Rom 16:1-2 Ephesians Rev 2:2-3; Rev 2:6 See Jesus, The Christ, Zeal of Exemplified by Paul Act 9:20-29; Acts 14:1-28; Act 15:26; Act 15:30-36; Act 15:41; Act 16:31-32; Act 16:10; Act 16:13; Act 16:17; Act 17:2-3; Act 17:16-17; Act 17:22-31; Act 18:4-6; Act 18:19; Act 18:23; Acts 13:16-52; Act 20:18-27; Act 20:31; Act 20:33-34; Act 20:7; Act 19:8-10; Act 19:21; Act 21:13; Act 24:14-25; Acts 26:1-29; Act 28:23-28; Act 28:30-31; Rom 1:1; Rom 1:9-15; Rom 9:1-3; Rom 10:1; Rom 11:13-14; Rom 15:15-32; 2Co 10:14-16; 1Co 1:17; 1Co 1:23; 1Co 2:1-4; 1Co 2:6-7; 1Co 2:13; 1Co 3:1-2; 1Co 3:5-7; 1 Cor 4:1-21; 1Co 9:12; 1Co 9:15-23; 1Co 9:27; 1Co 10:33; 1Co 11:1; 1Co 13:1; 1 Cor 15:1-32; 2Co 1:12; 2Co 1:17-19; 2Co 1:24; 2Co 2:12-17; 2Co 3:6; 2Co 3:12; 2Co 4:1-2; 2Co 4:5; 2Co 4:8-15; 2Co 5:11; 2Co 5:13-14; 2Co 5:18; 2Co 5:20; 2Co 6:3-10; 2Co 7:2; 2Co 10:3; 2Co 11:9; 2Co 11:7; 2Co 11:12; 2Co 11:22-33; 2Co 12:10; 2Co 12:14-15; 2Co 12:17-19; 2Co 12:21; 2Co 13:6-9; Gal 1:10; Gal 1:15-16; Gal 2:2; Gal 3:1; Gal 4:19; Gal 4:11; Gal 5:11; Eph 6:20; Eph 6:17; Phi 1:17; Phi 4:11-12; Phi 4:17; Phi 1:18; Phi 1:20; Phi 1:22-25; Phi 1:27; Phi 2:16-17; Phi 3:4-16; Col 1:28-29; Col 1:24; Col 2:1; 1Th 1:5-6; 1Th 2:2-6; 1Th 2:8-11; 2Ti 1:3; 2Ti 1:7; 2Ti 1:11-13; 2Th 3:7-9; Phi 3:17; 1Ti 4:10; 2Ti 2:9-10; 2Ti 3:10-11; Heb 13:18 In punishing the wicked: Moses and the Levites Exo 32:20; Exo 32:26-29 Israelites Jos 22:11-20; Judg 20 Samuel 1Sa 15:33 David 2Sa 1:14; 2Sa 4:9-12 Elijah 1Ki 18:40 Jehu 2Ki 10:15-28 Jehoiada 2Ki 11:18 Josiah 2Ki 23:20
DESPONDENCY - Moses: When sent on his mission to the Israelites Exo 4:1; Exo 4:10; Exo 4:13; Exo 6:12 At the Red Sea Exo 14:15 When the people lusted for flesh Num 11:15 The Israelites, on account of the cruel oppressions of the Egyptians Exo 6:9 Elijah, when he fled from Jezebel to the wilderness and sat under the juniper tree, and wished to die 1Ki 19:4 Jonah, after he had preached to the Ninevites Jon 4:3; Jon 4:8 The mariners with Paul Act 27:20 Job Job 3:1-26; Job 17:13-16 Jeremiah Lam 3:1-21; Lam 5:22 Comfort in General references Isa 35:3-4; Luk 18:1-8; Heb 12:12-13
SORROW - Sorrow For sin General references 2Co 7:10-11 Of Hannah 1Sa 1:15 Of David for Absalom 2Sa 18:33; 2Sa 19:1-8 Of Mary and Martha John 11:19-40 Jeremiah Lam 1:12 Jesus Isa 53:11; Mat 26:37-44; Mar 14:34-42; Luk 22:42-44 From bereavement: Of Jacob for Joseph Gen 37:34-35 Of Jacob for Benjamin Gen 43:14
These are just a few examples.
We who are Christians have love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We care for our families, even if they are not brothers and sisters in Christ. We have compassion on the poor and needy. We have joy in our fellowship with the saints and in our salvation. We are excited about and have zeal for the true gospel. We are amazed at the blindness of the lost and at the grace of our God. We have holy anger against the God-haters and their damnable doctrines. We have sorrow for the lost, especially those of our flesh and blood. We are ashamed of our sin. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Of course, there are also sinful expressions of any of these emotions as well, and we as Christians continue to be beset by sinful emotions. But let us dwell on those emotions that are not sinful in and of themselves.
We, like David and Jeremiah, have experienced the weight of our sin, crying out to God for forgiveness. We, like Paul, have wept real tears over the horrible spiritual state of our brothers according to the flesh. We have experienced times of intense joy when in fellowship with other believers or when meditating on the work of Christ, even to the point of crying. We have cried when we have meditated on the love with which Christ loves us, that He has saved us -- guilty, defiled, hell-deserving sinners -- by enduring the full fury of the wrath of the Father that we deserved. Our zeal for the purity of the house of God has consumed us. When we see self-righteous religionists who come in the name of sovereign grace blaspheme our God and make Him into a liar, we are sometimes overtaken with anger.
Yes, we Christians do have emotions. And those who would accuse us of being emotion-less have not spent time with us. Those who would say that we have no deep sorrow for our own sin have not spent time with us. Those who would say that we have no love for the lost and do not desire their salvation have not spent time with us. At times, we can get quite emotional, even to the point of being overcome with weeping so we cannot do anything else for a time. I think of some particular passages where Paul showed emotion:
"For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, having been sold under sin. For what I work out, I do not know. For what I do not will, this I do. But what I hate, this I do. But if I do what I do not will, I agree with the Law, that [it is] good. But now I no longer work it out, but the sin dwelling in me. For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good. For to will is present to me, but to work out the good I do not find. For what good I desire, I do not do. But the evil I do not desire, this I do. But if I do what I do not desire, [it is] no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me. I find then the law, [when] I desire to do the right, that evil is present with me. For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members. O wretched man [that] I [am]! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself with the mind truly serve [the] Law of God, and [with] the flesh [the] law of sin." (Romans 7:14-25)
"I tell [the] truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience bearing witness with me in [the] Holy Spirit, that my grief is great, and a never ceasing pain [is] in my heart, for I myself was wishing to be a curse from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to flesh, who are Israelites, whose [are] the adoption and the glory, and the covenants, and the Lawgiving, and the service, and the promises; whose [are] the fathers, and from whom [is] the Christ according to flesh, He being God over all, blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 9:1-5)
"Brothers, truly my heart's pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for [it] to be saved." (Romans 10:1)
"For many walk as hostile to the cross of Christ, of whom I often told you, and now even weeping I say it, whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and who glory in their shame, the ones thinking earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19)
Here is some real emotion from a man of God -- emotion about his own indwelling sin, emotion about deliverance from the body of this death through Jesus Christ, and emotion about the lost. We are to be like Paul.
Yet we are not like those "experiential religionists" who come in the name of sovereign grace who base their hope and their assurance on their emotions. We certainly do get emotional, but our emotions do not tell us or anyone else that we are saved. The "experiential religionists" will see a man crying all night on his bed over sin and say that this man must be saved, or at least undergoing "holy spirit conviction." But we who are true believers know that the wicked can cry all night on their bed over their sin and still be just as wicked when they rise from their bed in the morning. Display of emotion does not tell anything about a person's spiritual state in and of itself. The wicked can show outward compassion. They can have zeal and outward joy. They can be angry at the murderers and child molesters and homosexuals. They can believe that there is one God and tremble. They can be depressed over their sinful state. It matters not what emotions they have -- what matters is this: what DOCTRINE do they believe? An "experiential religionist" can read the diary of a person who wrote that he felt enraptured by a particular sermon or a particular passage of Scripture and say that this is proof that this person is saved, no matter what doctrine he believes. We who are believers know that it is the DOCTRINE that tells us whether or not he is saved.
Faith is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is a belief in God's promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Now will this belief sometimes elicit certain emotions? Yes. But the emotions are not part of faith.
"My boldness toward you [is] great. My boasting on your behalf [is] much. I have been filled with comfort; I overflow with joy on all our trouble." (2 Corinthians 7:4)
"I thank my God always making mention of you in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints, so that the fellowship of your faith may operate in a full knowledge of every good thing in you for Jesus Christ. For we have much joy and encouragement over your love, in that the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother." (Philemon 4-7)