As I was reading scripture the other day I made 2 observations – 1) strong, emotional words are often used in scripture and 2) that I have almost completely removed strong emotions from my practice of Christianity and made it an intellectual pursuit.
For as long as I can remember, certainly back to HS, I’ve been a ‘practicing Scandinavian’ where “Yah, you betcha, that hotdish was ok.” is about as emotional as I am comfortable with. Having acknowledged that, I also have to admit that I don’t see that attitude advocated or practiced in scripture.
Ps 55:5 does not say “I am a little anxious; things I dislike concern me.” It says “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”
1 Thes 5:16 does not say “Be happy most of the time.” It says “Be joyful always;”
Matt 26:38 does not say “I am a little down tonight. Stay with me.” It says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Mk 3:5 doesn’t say “He looked around at them in irritation and wished they weren’t so stubborn.” It says “He looked around at them in anger and was deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…”
Think about those emotions – Fear and Trembling, Horror, Joy, Sorrow, Anger, Deep Distress. They are not casual, wimpy emotions. When was the last time you felt something that strongly? Were you horrified by the Columbine school shootings? Were you overwhelmed with sorrow at the death of a loved one? Were you joyful at your child’s wedding or grandchild’s birth? Were you angry at getting cut off in traffic? Now ask yourself when was the last time you felt that strongly about something in your faith walk? Are you horrified at the pain and suffering represented by the cross? Are you overcome with sorrow by the betrayal of Christ? Are you joyful at the thought of eternity with God?
I fear that we have read the passages and heard the stories so often that they have lost their emotional impact. I know that we should not be controlled by our emotions; that knowledge and understanding must temper our emotions. But I also know that we are created in God’s image and thus are emotional beings. Being emotional is not a bad thing. I have resolved to view scripture with new eyes not only hearing the words but also feeling the emotions.