How does this make you feel?

How does this make you feel?

I am a pastor of a Presbyterian church. Every church tradition has its strengths and its weaknesses. The tradition I serve in values careful theology, reverent worship, and simple church services, all things that are very important. Yet I also know that Presbyterians are not known for their vibrancy and passion! We are known for thinking rather than feeling.

How we think about God is critical. We should be careful to make sure we understand the Scriptures rightly. Yet our emotions are part of who we are, and a full response to our good God has to include how we feel as well.

In 2 Kings 10, we see the actions of Jehu in carrying out God’s judgement on the house of Ahab. As part of this, he orders the gruesome death of all seventy of Ahab’s sons. This is how the writer of 2 Kings tells us what happened:

6 Then he wrote to them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you are ready to obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow at this time.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were bringing them up. 7 And as soon as the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and slaughtered them, seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. 8 When the messenger came and told him, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” (2 Ki. 10:6-8 ESV)

Now, there is a time and place for us to debate the theology of killing these sons, how it fits with previous promises, and why it was needed. When I preached on this passage, I discussed all of those things. Yet there is another question worth asking as well. How does reading this make you feel?

This is no aloof account of things. It could be much worse, of course; the writer didn’t get into the gory level of detail we might see in some modern movies. Yet the mental image is distressing, to think about heads in baskets and then displayed by the city gate overnight for everyone to see. This should make us feel disturbed. We should feel the impact of the sin of the house of Ahab. We should be appalled that this is what sin costs. And we should not feel superior, but humbled, to consider that our sin also deserves a hideous and terrible punishment from God.

When you read a Bible passage, asking questions of it will help you unpack what it there. Ask what it tells you about God, about people, and about Jesus. But ask another question we don’t ask enough: how does this make you feel? Our emotional response to a passage can help to identify our blind spots and our sin. We get angry at Jehu at being unreasonable in 2 Kings 10 because we don’t really feel that sin is that bad. In other passages, our lack of joy at reading of what Jesus has done for us might reveal that we don’t value the gospel as highly as we logically think we do.

God made us to be whole people who think and feel. Let’s serve Him with our minds but also with our hearts.