Authentic New Testament Solutions

The Power of Emotions

#4 in The Love Series

I just heard an endorsement for socialist Bernie Sanders for president by a free-market capitalist because he met Sanders and liked him. He liked him!?!?!?  So, a man who is a student of history, who seems rational and reasonable, who knows the benefits of free-market capitalism and the devastation socialism can cause, will vote for a socialist because he likes him! Humph! I don’t like it, but it does illustrate the power of emotion over reason.

Another example of the power of emotion over reason is one of the most common prayers ever prayed, “Lord, I’ll never do that again.” But very often the person who prayed that prayer “does it again” because their emotions changed. None of us like that when it happens, but it does illustrate the power of emotion over reason.

Emotions are a strong motivator in all of us, and love can cause some of our strongest emotions. Most social scientists today agree that there are only six innate and universal emotions, and interestingly, none of which are love. They are:

  1. fear,
  2. anger,
  3. happiness or joy,
  4. sadness,
  5. surprise, and
  6. shame.

Each one of these emotions naturally leads to unique actions and unique facial expressions that are able to be interpreted in every culture accurately. But why is love not on the list? It’s because love is not a single emotion. It does not have a distinct facial expression, and it is much more complex than any one emotion.

Instead, love produces a variety of feelings and emotions depending upon the circumstances. Sometimes it produces a melody of feelings that can knock us off our feet and cause us to throw caution to the wind; other times it makes us feel so violated and betrayed that we want to be hermits the rest of our lives. Love can produce a full spectrum of emotions. When we love, we can be joyful, sad, angry, afraid, surprised, or ashamed – sometimes at the same time. The emotions love produces can swing from passionate lust to murderous anger. This is why some people try to avoid love, and, no doubt, this gives love a bad rap among many.

So, what is love? I believe a simple definition of real love is living for the good of another. For example, we love God, so we live to serve him.  God loves us, he takes care of us. When parents love their children, they live for the good of their children, and when children love their parents, they enjoy making them happy. Some love football, so they adjust their schedules and spending for football. Others love The Church, so they live for the good of their local church. In this process of living for the good of others, we all experience a wide variety of emotions.

The emotions prompted by love powerfully organize and elevate our lives so that we don’t merely exist on this earth, we experience it. They organize our lives by prioritizing our time and influencing how we spend our money. They elevate our lives because when we love, we live for the good of someone or something else. When we’re enjoying healthy, life-giving love, we are not selfish.

Our emotions turn objects into mementos, events into life-long memories, and that one other person into the love of our lives. It’s my emotions that transformed a truck into a loved and cherished machine.

Emotions are more significant to our personal lives and our society than we as rational, reasonable people like to admit. Certainly, the Bible and our faith informs our moral judgments and actions, but I’ve observed that if we believe one thing, but feel another, most of us will often do what we feel, not what we say we believe. Strangely, after doing what we feel, we create a rationale to give the appearance that we had a reason for our actions instead of a simple, “I did it because I wanted to.”

Don’t get me wrong, I know that God is emotional and is sometimes motivated by his emotions as well. A quick read through the Bible reveals that reality. And since we are created in his image and likeness, we too are emotional and are sometimes motivated by our emotions.

But just as God is also reasonable and rational, so we can be reasonable and rational too. How do we mitigate the power of emotion in us so we can also be reasonable and rational? Through healthy, wholesome, long-term life-giving relationships.

Long-term life-giving relationships balance us.

In the biblical creation account, when God formed the universe, the earth, and everything in it, “God saw that it was good” . . .  until he created Adam. And for the first time in biblical history, God expresses displeasure when he says, “It is NOT good for man to be alone” (which is still sooooooo true today). That’s when he created a companion for Adam, a relationship that became a family.

Healthy, long lasting life-giving relationships provide a safe haven for all of us. Both physical and emotional pain are lessened when we are with those we love and those who love us. Marriage, children, churches, civic organizations, and recreational clubs all help civilize us. We are created to function best in groups, corporations, cities, states, and nations. And learning to love and be loved is, in effect, about connecting in a healthy way so that as life happens, good or bad, we are stronger and safer. It’s God’s infinite grace to provide us with the ease and safety that comes from a dependable life partner or a group of faithful friends. It’s what makes life good.

But love relationships aren’t meant only to be joyrides; they produce restorative, balancing emotions that calm and regulate our feelings. We need one another, and in secure relationships, we become the best people we can be.

No doubt, we were created to be together. Our emotions depend on it. 



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21st Century Evangelicalism

Genesis 1, Pope Francis and Evangelicals

Pope Francis stimulated interest in Genesis 1 with his comments on the Big Bang and Evolution, especially among conservative Evangelicals. We tend to defend a more literal interpretation of Scripture and are a movement that highlights the centrality of the Word in our faith and practice, so some evangelicals are concerned that the Pope is compromising biblical authority.

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the first sentence of the first book of the entire Bible. It establishes one of the first great truths God wants all of us to understand—that he created everything.

Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Does this describe the first condition of the earth after its creation? And what of the six days which follow in this first chapter? Do they describe the process of the original creation?

Note that in verse 1, the Bible highlights creation, where God created the heavens and the earth. Later verse 21 describes the creation of the animals, and verse 27, the creation of people. The Bible differentiates between the original creation of the earth and its subsequent reconstruction making it suitable for people. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the six days in this first chapter do not necessarily describe the original creation of the earth.

When verse 2 describes the earth as formless, empty and dark, it doesn’t mean that is the condition of the earth immediately following its initial creation. Actually, there is no way of knowing how many millions, or maybe billions, of years might have passed between verses 1 and 2. For us to assume that all God has ever done is create the universe, the animals and all of us is too limiting for the Eternal, Almighty God. He is God. This universe might just be one of his creations, and there are obviously mighty things he did before our Genesis account, and that he will do after the accounts in Revelation conclude. Remember he always has been and always will be. He was before the creation of the world as we know it, and will be long after we pass into eternity and the earth enters a new phase that is far beyond the final accounts in the book of Revelation. The Bible gives us an understanding of God as we need to know him for our salvation, so that revelation is not thorough in every other subject. We will all learn more when we step into eternity, and still more when we see him face to face.

The English Bible translators could have translated the third word in verse 2 “became.” “The earth became formless and empty, . . . “ The same Hebrew word is translated “became” in Genesis 2:7b where the Bible says, “He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” In other places, translators use “and it came to pass” when translating this Hebrew word. So Genesis 1:2 could read, “And it came to pass that the earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. . . “ That would have given the average English Bible reader a grid for understanding when visiting the Natural History Museum.

The first verse of Genesis simply states the fact of the original creation, and leaves it there, in the dateless past. Then verse 2 tells of the chaos which came to this earth later. And then the six days which follow describe the re-formation of the earth with a view of earth becoming the habitation for people having the history of which we have a biblical record.

When I was in high school, my pastor taught that scholars guessed regarding the cataclysm that disorganized God’s original creation between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. He called this the Gap Theory, and speculated that maybe some pre-Adamite rebellion of which we have no record, or maybe the judgment of Lucifer, and the angels that followed him, created the disorder described in Genesis 1:2. We don’t know, but if you are interested, study Isaiah 14:9-17, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Ezekiel 28:12-18. These passages certainly communicate that much could have gone on during this period that may not be explained to us by God until eternity.

The Bible does not say evolution is impossible, and it’s within biblical parameters that there might have been several big bangs in the development of the universe, with more to come. During the first four days in Genesis 1, no creative acts are recorded. It’s only when we come to the animals and the human race that the Hebrew word for “create” is used. It is not a stretch that these six days give the account of a new beginning, but they are not necessarily the first beginning.

As a conservative Evangelical with a high view of Scripture, I believe the Pope might be right on this one, without compromising biblical authority.