Holy Cadaver, Batman! How Does Your Church Feel?

love-1075476_640If I asked Jesus into my heart, why would He leave my feelings unredeemed?

That doesn’t make sense, does it? And yet, all my life, the message I’ve been sent by the church community is that my feelings are not to be trusted.

On one level, I get it. Feelings are changeable and subject to complex influences. When a church member cautions, “we can’t be ruled by feelings,” I can agree – to a point.

But, I have to say, I also don’t believe we should be ruled by our bodies or our minds. I know some extremely intelligent people who have thought their way into aggressive atheism. And every day I work with people living with the consequences of letting their hormones make their choices.

No, I don’t believe we should be ruled by emotions but I also think we shouldn’t let our intellect, or body dictate things but only Christ alone. If Jesus has redeemed me and the Holy Spirit is working to sanctify me, can’t I expect that work to have as much effect on my emotions as on my mind?

We can’t dissect ourselves this way. When Jesus died, He died for all of me. He wasn’t mistaken in His original design. He gave me a body, mind, and soul. They were intended to work together, all subject to His rule.

I know when people repeat warnings not to let emotions dictate, they’re suggesting that sometimes our feelings lead us into disobedience. Absolutely, anytime our feelings direct us toward sin, we shouldn’t listen. But, I daresay my mind has been just as guilty of tempting me off the narrow path and sometimes my body has, through fatigue or libido, hinted that my best direction was away from God’s true intention for me.

Coming down so hard on making us distrust our emotions more than any other aspect of our being is damaging to the Body of Christ in several ways.

For one, it encourages an unnatural state of being where our feelings are somehow quarantined from influencing us. The emotions of a mature believer living in obedience to Christ can work as they were intended to work – as a warning system (guilt and fear help warn us of spiritual danger), as a motivational system (compassion, honor, respect inspire us to act for the right even despite our personal interest), and as a reward system (joy, passion, satisfaction, contentment, peace are all rewards for living in obedience.)

For another, over-emphasizing a mistrust of feelings gives evil influences an opportunity to mislead individuals who enjoy strong emotions into thinking there’s no place for them in Christ when actually the opposite is true. Biblical stories are devoid of the dry, emotionless drones some believe is ideal for Christians. The men and women of the Bible wept freely, laughed with abandon, loved passionately, and were sometimes stirred to righteous anger with no condemnation from the Lord. Jesus came to give us life to the full – emotions are a part of that fullness.

Certainly, our emotions can become twisted or warped and can lead us astray but in the book of Romans, Paul speaks to individuals with perverted and deceptive reasoning and Samson certainly allowed his strength to lead him astray. But body, mind, and emotions can work together to enhance our experience of Christ, too, and to encourage us toward obedience.

Finally, there are gifts of the Spirit that can appear to be driven by emotion – for example, the gift of mercy. We need not to stifle those who would exercise this gift in our midst in the name of “not being ruled by emotion.” Indeed, fear of being ruled by emotions is actually being ruled by emotion (fear).

No, we need to listen to those with the gift of mercy just as we listen to those with the gift of teaching, exhortation, or evangelism. If we downplay the emotional life of the church, we risk sidelining or alienating those who bear this gift.

Jesus’ redemptive work doesn’t stop at the door of my heart, it doesn’t cease to have an effect on my feelings, and it isn’t limited to my mind. Jesus has saved me in every way I can be saved.

We are the BODY of Christ, not the Holy Cadaver,  complete with thoughts, actions, and feelings – all subject to Christ can serve His purpose. We need to minister to people’s physical, intellectual, and emotional needs and stop trying to chop them into pieces in the name of Jesus. Why would we believe that coming alive to Christ means a deadening of our emotions? I believe just the opposite. Living in relationship with Jesus sets my emotions free to be informed by the Holy Spirit and exercised as they were designed to function: as one facet of an integrated human being living in obedience to Christ. I trust that forty plus years of walking with Jesus have had an effect on my entire being – including my emotions.

What are your thoughts on this? Dare I ask, how do you feel about this blog post? Let me hear from you, loved ones.

I could use your help spreading the word about my upcoming book, due to release the first week of December (and available for preorder now on Amazon). If you’ve been blessed by my writing, consider sharing my blog with others and encouraging them to subscribe. Contact me about coming to speak at your church or small group. I’d love to meet you in person. I appreciate all the kind words and encouragement you send me and my prayer is that together, we can encourage others to join the adventure with Christ. If you share news about my blog or book or get someone else to subscribe, send me a note on FB or the website and let me know what you’ve done. I’ll put you on a list of people to be the first to receive a special gift I have in the works for November!

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    The Conversation

  1. Mark Landon says:

    You make an excellent point about the role of emotions in the life of the Christian. My thinking on this leads me to a slightly divergent point- that of the misdirection of the Christian passion. My point is (please note that I live in the St. Louis area, where Cardinal fever is rampant at the moment) to be made in the observation of some of my bretheren, who blister the walls of their homes with every pitch during the game, yet on Sunday morning can scarcely be found with a pulse for the worship of their Lord.

    I think of the warning of Jesus to the “lukewarm” church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation, and cannot help but think of how that may directly apply to the American church today. I pray that this does not sound hopeless, but the distracted Christian is of no legitimate use in the Kingdom.

    I appreciate your writing- and the passion that it exhibits for Jesus.
    Mark Landon

    • What you say makes sense, Mark. I’ve often argued in church that while, I know love is an action, not just a feeling, and that we must sometimes act despite our feelings, my marriage would be a desert if those feelings of love didn’t arise time and time again. Likewise, in the church, we sometimes have to act even when our feelings don’t align with the truth but if we never FEEL love for the Lord, it’s time for a check up.

    • Carla says:

      Amen, Mark. Isn’t it funny that the Cardinals enthusiasts are called fans when they scream, pound each other on the back and run with abandon onto the field, YET if we say a hearty ‘Amen!’ we are called fanatics. The Joy of the Lord is our strength, YET we have been taught to approach God with ‘holy reverence’–a buzz word for ‘do it quietly!’. I worship with every ounce of my being, from my feet to my hair. I LOVE my God just as the Cardinal fan loves their team. WHY shouldn’t I show the emotion of love and joy? If we ran our marriages the way the establishment thinks we should approach our relationship with God, we’d all be divorced. Our emotions were given to us for a purpose, not a curse. The Spirit teaches us to use them correctly. Our lives should make Jesus so attractive to unbelievers that they would be CRAZY not to accept Him. Our emotions of love, mercy, joy and compassion are what CALLS to a hurting world.

      Good stuff, Lori!

  2. Laurie says:

    “Finally, there are gifts of the Spirit that can appear to be driven by emotion – for example, the gift of mercy. We need not to stifle those who would exercise this gift in our midst in the name of “not being ruled by emotion.” Indeed, fear of being ruled by emotions is actually being ruled by emotion (fear).”

    Thank you for this! This issue has been on my mind for quite a while but in my few ventures out trying to discuss my thoughts about it people react very fearfully…ironic, isn’t it? So thank you for bringing it up!

  3. Debra says:

    As triune beings, our emotions are clearly part of the equation.

    “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

    Redeemed emotions are God’s. If we are in Him, then our emotions are His. In other words, sometimes what I’m feeling are His feelings. Why would I want to dissect myself, cut off my emotions? There is so much pain and suffering in this world, and if our feelings are dead, then how can we minister to each other?

    “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” The Body of Christ cannot be truly connected apart from the emotional realm.

    Good post, Lori.

  4. Ann Jorgensen says:

    Just yesterday I heard someone explaining how love wasn’t an emotion. I understand her point, that true love requires action, but like you I think we need to be careful not to downplay our emotions too much. They are, after all, given to us by God and therefore serve a purpose.

    As a survivor of child abuse I have battled my whole adult life to get in touch with my emotions after having spent my childhood suppressing them. That is not healthy. An important part of what defines me has been missing. Emotions are important.

  5. Maxine D says:

    Oh yes, emotionless living, and worship, would be dead boring, or should that read dead and boring? In fact, emotionless worship would end up being bland religion – no thank you, I left that when Jesus redeemed all of me! Thank you Lori.