Feelings

I originally posted this in September of last year, but since you asked for it Raquel, I think it is worth re-posting… (that, and my head is too mushy to post anything fresh 🙂 )

I am wrestling some right now with the appropriate place for emotions in religion. I am involved in a study right now that says that “Feelings are involuntary. They are caused indirectly, not directly. Feelings are not willed into being. They are indicators, not instigators. Feelings, in and of themselves, are not sin. How do we know that feelings are not sin and that God does not hold us responsible for changing our feelings? We are never commanded anywhere in the Scriptures to change them. God only commands us to change our deeds.”

I did a concordance search – on feelings in the Bible directly linked to the heart – ie. 2 Sam 6:16 “…and she despised him in her heart.” The heart expresses no less than 60 different feelings in the NIV version of the Bible – pain, rejoicing, yearning, guilt, anguish, cheerfulness, delight, sincerity… Some of the feelings are commanded “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord” Philippians 3:1. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

I guess I am confused on what the heart is, if not feelings? This study suggests that it refers to “one’s character or inner life with its desires and purpose for living.” It also says that it includes “the mind, intentions, and motives.” I do not understand how we can possibly separate this from feelings. It seems to be alot of hair-splitting. When does a feeling (I am jealous of how close you are to my sister) become a thought to repent of?

Feelings can clearly be sin – I think at the root of this study’s teaching is the word “involuntary”. Feelings are these things that just happen to you – like a sneeze or a hiccup. Since we cannot control them, we are clearly not responsible for them. This flies in the face of the gospel – and is even contradictory to passages the study itself leads to. James 3:14 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” or Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already commited adultery with her in his heart.”

What may be missing is the working of the Holy Spirit. As the psalmist says in Psalm 119:36 “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” This psalm especially is full of how dependant we are on God’s grace to love Him:
Do not utterly forsake me! v4.
Teach me statutes! v12.
Open my eyes v18.
Hide not Your commandments from me! v19.
Make me understand the way of Your precepts v27
Put false ways far from me, and graciously teach me Your law! v29
Lead me in the path of Your commandments v36
Uphold me according to Your promise v116
Hold me up, that I may be safe v117
Keep steady my steps according to Your promise v133
I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek Your servant v176

Some days we just wake up grumpy. Repent. Some days we hear something that makes us unrighteously angry. Repent. And, beg of the Holy Spirit to incline our hearts towards Him! We can not will our feelings to change. But we may, we Must, beg of the Spirit to work in our hearts – to produce the fruit of the Spirit, to sanctify us, as we diligently seek God’s face and glory – in humble, delightful obedience.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Raquelamisto
    Jun 04, 2008 @ 14:41:16

    What’s crazy is that’s exactly what I was telling you, even though you said it five months ago. hah!

    The obvious sticking point is that the word ‘feelings’ isn’t even in the Bible. We continue creating new ways to excuse our sinful reactions.
    The thought seems to be, “These feelings just happened to me so it’s not anything that I need to repent of, nor does God care that I am feeling them. He knows that it’s not my fault.” It SCREAMS of not wanting to take responsibility for our brokenness… Like saying ‘the devil made me do it.’

    No one made anyone do anything. We are sinful. That’s what made us do it.

    Reply

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