Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with heart, mind, soul and strength. The formulation comes from the Shema in the Old Testament, and paints a picture of worship in which every part of the person is involved. It is physical, mental, spiritual and also emotional.
Sometimes Christians can be confused when it comes to how emotions play into our faith. There are dangers at both extremes. If emotions become too prominent then the measure of our spiritual life becomes simply our emotional mood, which is affected by many factors and does not always match up with God’s word. On the other hand, it is possible to detach emotions from the faith too much and end up with something more akin to stoicism than to Biblical Christianity.
This is a topical sermon, kicking off the ‘Inside Out Worship’ series that looks at how emotions figure into the Christian life.
Jesus Experienced Emotions – One of the strongest arguments for the importance of emotion in the Christian life is that Jesus himself experienced a full range of human emotions. This included anger (Matthew 21:12), grief (John 11:34-35) and joy (Luke 10:21). In every case, the object and expression of these emotions was appropriate and lined up with the heart of God.
Emotions Show What We Value – The emotional life of a person is one of the surest ways to see what is important to that person. Jesus taught that our hearts will be where our treasure is (Matt 6:21). It is the things that bring we care about most that will bring us joy, and the lack or abuse of those things can cause us sadness, anxiety or even anger. It would be ludicrous to suggest that we love God above all other things but have no emotional component to our faith.
Emotions Do Not Define Our Faith – One of the dangers of an emotionally connected faith is when those emotions grow beyond their right place. Emotions are an appropriate response to objective truth, but sometimes we can let those emotions cloud the truths we profess. When we are feeling happy then God is good, but on days where we are downcast it can be easy to doubt that goodness. The antidote to this is to preach the gospel to ourselves and speak truth to our emotional states, as the psalmist does in Psalm 42:5.
An extended time of worship would be a good response, with a good selections of songs that have emotionally expressive lyrics.