Responding emotionally to the gospel

Responding emotionally to the gospel

It is true that, to be a Christian, there are things that we need to understand intellectually. We need to understand that we are sinners, that Jesus is God himself, that he came to earth as a man and died for our sins, rising again to prove that that the sacrifice was accepted. These are important concepts. They need to be explained and understood. Using our minds is part of responding to the gospel.

It has to, however, be deeper than just some kind of intellectual agreement. It needs to shake us up, and we need to respond to this good news emotionally. We need to feel something.

Now, I am a Presbyterian pastor, and Presbyterians are not known for their emotional response to much. Known for good theology and strong teaching, yes, but emotion and passion are things few Presbyterian churches are accused of! What I mean by ‘emotion’ doesn’t mean that we need to burst into tears and wave our hands in the air during the singing at church; I simply mean that the gospel has to impact how we feel.

It is valid to respond to a Bible passage we have read or heard explained and ask: “how does this make me feel?” When we read about God’s judgement on the Canaanites, we should feel the horror of this. When we read of the good shepherd leaving the 99 to find the one that was lost, we should be overcome with thankfulness. When we read of the wonder of heaven to come, we should feel thrilled that this is where we are heading.

Emotions are not things to be avoided; they are integral to who we are. We see this in how we respond to songs. Music stirs emotion in us, even in Presbyterians it must be said! Sometimes a well-crafted phrase captures a truth of the gospel so well we feel the impact better than when it was just explained to us.

We need to respond emotionally to the gospel, or we haven’t really understood it. Sure, we might not respond the same way each time. Sure, sometimes the gospel hits home with power, and sometimes our hearts are a little harder. But it should not be unusual to feel something as we read the Bible or hear it explained.

We need to feel the horror of our sin and the wonder at being saved. And not just when we are new believers. This doesn’t mean that we try to manufacture a certain church service atmosphere to generate emotional responses; that is shallow and chases a certain feeling over something deeper. No, we need to plainly and clearly hear the gospel read, explained and sung. If the Spirit has changed our hearts, it should not be unusual to feel our hearts warmed, our emotions stirred, and our desire to serve God increased. Emotions are a gift from God and part of who we are.