Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Emotion of our Lord

    It's a common idea in our culture that to show emotion is to show weakness. Part of that is self fostered, I admit, since I would be the first to admit that I do my utmost to keep tears from ever being seen in my eyes. Part of it is pressure our culture puts on us, particularly on men, but also on women, to come across strong. Part of it also comes, I know, from the cultural push to look cool, to seem distant and uncaring, to avoid all feelings of vulnerability. I'm not sure why emotionless is interpreted as coolness, but for some reason it is.

    But a couple months ago, I started thinking about how Jesus describes His relationship with us. That led me to have a conversation with my brother along the same lines and to do some more reading and thinking. Honestly, I came to an inescapable conclusion: Our Lord Jesus was a very emotional person. I don't mean that in the sense that He wore His tears on His sleeve, and at the slightest pointed jab from a friend or stubbed toe, He would throw Himself down on the road and cry or stomp His feet. I mean that the Jesus in the gospels seems very free to show emotions.

    For example, we all remember the story of His chasing the money changers from the temple. Now, I find it very hard to picture Jesus stoicly fashioned a whip and whipping people from the temple with a somber step and downcast eyes. I picture this scene as a passionate anger, a holy wrath that God is expressing. When I read this scene in the Bible, I see a side to Jesus I don't see anywhere else, but for possibly the first time in the gospels, I'm glad I wasn't there. This is an example of the Son of God expressing extreme anger (I mean, really, how many of us have reached the point of whipping people when we got passionate?).

     Here's another. Shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35. The background here is that Jesus' friends Mary and Martha had a brother, probably another friend of Jesus' since He had spent quite some time in Mary and Martha's house. In any case, friend or acquaintance, Lazerus died and Jesus comes to Mary and Martha's house three days late. Now, we know the story; most likely, we've all read it. Jesus winds up healing Lazerus.

    Usually, we skip over the little two word verse there. "Jesus wept." I mean, seriously, what's the point of that? I want to put this out there as another example of Jesus expressing another emotion, one that really doesn't seem to go with a sovereign God. I mean, okay, anger, that's understandable. He's zealous for the holiness of His Father.

    But sorrow? Tears? Especially when we think about the fact that He was going to heal Lazerus in just a moment, tears really don't make sense. There are a couple of theories about why He was crying. One, He may have been crying over the disbelief of the people. Another idea is that He was mourning simply out of sympathy for Mary and Martha's hurt and pain in their brother's death.

     Whatever the reason, the point is there. We see our sovereign, all powerful God standing before a tomb, wetting the ground with His tears. Picture this for a moment. Jesus, crying. God, crying. Whatever the reason, this is God letting loose His sorrow, whether it be for Lazerus himself, his friend's deep sorrow, or the disbelief of the crowds.

     Last example is a little phrase we see quite a bit in the gospels: "moved with compassion." He sees the crowds, He's moved with compassion. He sees the lepers, He's moved with compassion. He sees a blind man, He's moved with compassion. It's a common phrase that again, I think we just read over when we shouldn't.

     We're talking about God, mind you. He's looking at the lost, or He's looking at the sick, and He's moved. He's visibly (to the point that His disciples are looking back and recalling this) shaken, stirred, moved. That's what this means. The hurt in the world, the physical hurt, the spiritual hurt, it shook Him emotionally.

     Now, I gave those three examples to make one point. Our Jesus Christ was not a silent, strong man. He was a man who at times showed tears, showed stirring emotion, showed anger. Stoicism was not something our Lord aspired after.

     I ran across a teaching in reading some conservative homeschool writings several years ago that I never really gave much thought to until I started talking with several friends who had struggled some with depression. One of them talked about the pressure they felt to always look happy, to have "shining eyes", to always glow with the joy of the Lord, to the extent that they felt required to be fake, like a mask, all the time.

     I've had other people describe similar feelings before, and honestly, it sort of disturbed me. I wanted to spend some time thinking it over and deciding what I thought before I wrote about it here, but this is the second or third time I've tried to write about this. I do feel that this needs to be addressed though.

     To be a joyful Christian does not mean you have to walk around all the time smiling, say "fine" when people ask how you're doing, or pretend that nothing's going on when your heart feels like it will break. That's not joy. That's a mask. Our Lord (who obviously filled the bill for whatever it means to be a joyful Christian) cried. He was angry. He felt compassion to the point of showing it on His face.

     Being joyful in Christ has nothing to do with remaining stoic or pretending to be happy when you're hurt. Fake joy healed no one. Masks only hide the real person behind them, not change the person behind them to resemble the mask. I fear we wear masks hoping they will conform our faces to match, that by wearing a happy mask, by pretending we're joyful when we're torn, we'll somehow make ourselves be joyful.

     But it doesn't work. God gave emotions for a reason. They're not intended to be stifled, but controlled. I didn't say they should be repressed, I didn't say they should be unleashed. I said they need to be controlled. Now, only you can determine what that means in your own life, but the point of my post is that God never requires us as believers to repress our emotions, particularly if you're naturally an emotional person. God gave you that personality, and it's okay to be emotional!

     It's okay to be human. It's okay to drop the mask, to let those you trust see you for who you really are. It's okay to not walk through your whole life singing and whistling. It's okay to feel anger, to feel compassion, to feel sorrow, to be moved to the point of tears, to feel loneliness, to feel these things. In the perfect world of the garden, Adam experienced loneliness. Our perfect Savior shed tears. It's human, and that's okay.


  1. Great post. :) It's hard to picture Christ as an emotional Lord, until actually getting into the Scriptures. My God is such a beautiful Savior that I'm getting to constantly learn more about!!

    1. Amen, Lauren! It's been of the coolest parts of Jesus the last few weeks while I've been thinking about it. The love He feels for me isn't just decision love, dutiful love. It's emotional love, love that desires. :) The emotional side of Him opens up a whole new part of His character!

  2. Well put together. I really liked when you made the point, "Part of it also comes, I know, from the cultural push to look cool, to seem distant and uncaring, to avoid all feelings of vulnerability. I'm not sure why emotionless is interpreted as coolness, but for some reason it is." To many Christians today have become so taken with the world that it is not uncommon to see this kind of "non-emotionalism" in many young Christians (even adults at times).

    It is also important to remember that when one is speaking on God's emotions and our emtions, that God's emotions are perfect, ours are not.

    1. Thanks for reading, elambert321! Good thoughts!