One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God.
As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions.
We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices.
Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts. Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three ―intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions.
This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking. Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge. Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are. This is a fallacy.
While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person. It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions.
The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives. It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity.
Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions. In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger.
In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded. We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions. He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger. In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.
Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive. They are neutral. What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives. How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.
What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin. Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.”
The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers. It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients. While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.
Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast. Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength. Meek meant power put under control. Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”. In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.
Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord. It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint. He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check. He was meek.
As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives. We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions.
Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers. He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place. It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control. He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance.
In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image. As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us. True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions.