Is the Church what we think it is?
Where is the place for emotions and for sober judgement?
Whaaaaaaaat?! (Hits keyboard in disgust).
Initial reactions: Has Steve gone mad? But he’s spot on with so many other things, perhaps …? No, he’s gone off! But, at least let’s hear him out. No, NO! Why should we expose ourselves to such nonsense?
Slow down, collect yourself, put a kettle on. Then let me explain.
My son, Jonathan is currently studying for a theatre studies degree and he tells me that, whereas traditional dramatic performances are to a passive audience, there is a genre that encourages active participation, where the onus is on interactivity with the audience. To you and me, it’s that old classroom staple, show and tell. Rather than writing or speaking about a topic, you demonstrate it directly to your audience.
This is how it has played out. There will be some who have read the offending words (at the top of this page) and swiftly moved on. Others could be piqued and would flick down this page to feed their curiosity. Yes, it’s you I’m speaking about!
It is that first person who has illustrated the very attitude that this article addresses, our need, as people of God’s Kingdom, to act soberly, not to react in haste, before knowing the full facts. Unfortunately the very person who needs to realise this has already disengaged from the debate!
When Jesus was confronted by the Jerusalem Jews, they made some rash statements about him, the most serious being that he must have been demon-possessed. His response was: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24)
Our human nature compels us to follow the mob, just like those Jews before Pilate who were emotionally drummed up and primed by their leaders into rash declarations. Even when we read of a national Christian figure falling from grace, how often have we passed immediate judgement on this person, particularly if he was not of our Christian “tribe”, our justification being of him letting the side down and so deserving of all that he gets! Then we read of the devastating effect this has had on his family, his church, his peers and we check ourselves. Judge not, lest ye be judged! (Matthew 7:1)
We must be seen as a people of sober judgement, preferring silence to gut-reaction, aware of the damage we could do to God’s reputation by acting as a bad ambassador.
Emotions have their place. They are a fast-track access to our heart, often with a complete mind bypass. They drive our romantic notions, they are stirred up by music, drama, perhaps even by a plate of quiche (negatively in my case). I’ve often wondered why we consider the heart as the seat of emotions. When I’m all churned up, there are other bodily parts that seem to kick in, borne out by the involuntary loosening action exhibited by many when put in situations of fear and danger.
Interestingly, the Old Testament in its original language (Hebrew) concurs with this. The Hebrews saw the bowels, rather than the heart, as the seat of emotions, something the King James Version got right.
... therefore my bowels are troubled for him; ... (Jeremiah 31:20 KJV)
The NIV Bible translation puts it differently, perhaps loathe to use such an “unclean” word.
... Therefore my heart yearns for him ... (NIV)
Interesting, but drifting off point. Emotions can be very confusing to us Christians. How many of us had experienced our first brush with Christianity at a Billy Graham, Luis Palau or Reinhard Bonnke (or other) rally? How many moved forwards at the altar call, made a decision and then later dismissed this as acting in the moment, a purely emotional response to the words and the atmosphere of expectancy? Apparently more than 2.5 million people had received Jesus Christ as personal saviour at a Billy Graham Crusade by 1993. If that many people had become true, solid, born-again believers rather than acting in the moment think of how the World could have been changed for the better. Of course, God still worked (and is still working) on many hearts at these rallies and there are countless testimonies of truly changed lives as a result.
But a decision to transfer ownership of one’s most treasured possession – our own lives – from owner-occupier to the benign multinational corporation of the Kingdom of God, is not a decision that can be taken lightly at the spur of the moment, as a reaction to the gentle assault on the senses at a stadium event. There is one valid exception to this, in the case where the Holy Spirit has already been working on a person, bringing conviction and the assurance of hope and all that is needed is that final nudge.
So emotions in isolation can be a danger, unless accompanied by brain activity. Which is why you’re going to read on now, when I again ask … was Jesus really gay? Come again …?
... next week ...
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.