There’s Nothing Wrong With Emotions In Church
You have heard a public speaker repeat it or read in the platitude in articles or books. “Emotions in faith are bad! It should be based in logic!” “Worship services shouldn’t invoke emotion!” “Shut down your emotions in church! It blocks out the Holy Spirit!” Now, I am talking about the extreme, but more than likely you will read or hear this from many pastors, theologians, podcast hosts, and heresy hunters. The message is clear: any attempt at feeling emotion in church or worship is temporary at best and manipulative at worst.
To be clear, emotional manipulation from a pastor of any kind is wrong and sinful quite frankly. When a preacher says, “Give to me or you don’t love God” or “raise your hands higher to prove you love Jesus” is deception and not making the church about what it should be: shining a light on Christ. There is no exception to this rule.
Now, the other extreme is saying “faith should be based and logic and emotions are not logic!” Sure, logic should have a place in faith, but sometimes faith is illogical, like Jesus telling Peter to step out on the water of a stormy sea (Matthew 14:22-33). There was no logical reason for Peter to do that and it was not until he looked away from Christ that he began to sink. As the Bible says in the Book of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
A long time ago, I was talking to someone about how he does not like modern worship because it was “emotional manipulation.” When I asked why, he said, “I went to a church with that modern sound and that singer repeated the bridge more than once. He was just trying to stir up the crowd.” When I asked how repeating a bridge more than once stirred up the crowd, the reply was, “He knew what he was doing.”
Let us examine this. Does all of this criticism on showing emotion or being emotionally involved stand up to scripture? From love to joy, you find several scriptures where the writer uses emotional language to describe worshipping God. Consider Psalm 71:23 where David writes of God:
My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
Jesus Christ himself expanded on this. In the Gospel of John 15:11, He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Hearing the Word of God is meant to bring joy to your life.
Did we leave out love? In one of the most well-known Bible verses, John 3:16, Christ tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God shows us love, an emotion. Why shouldn’t Christians express love through participation in Church or worship? In fact, the Apostle John, tells us in 1 John 4:7-21:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
You might be asking what about anger, fear, sadness, or disgust? Those are all considered “negative” emotions. Sure, these emotions should not drive your participation in Church, but if you are feeling these, the gathering of believers should be a place where you can seek healing and help from the circumstances causing these emotions.
As a side note, these emotions are not totally negative. With the exception of fear, the Gospels clearly show Christ experiences these emotions: anger (Matthew 21:12-17), sadness (John 11:35), and disgust (John 2:13–15). The difference is Christ did not allow these emotions to drive Him into sin. We will slip up, obviously, but Christ is right there calling us to salvation through the power of Holy Spirit.
To have emotions is to be humans and denying or denouncing that part of our humanity, which God gave us, causes confusion and condemnation. Let us remember, there is no condemnation in Christ (John 3:17).
So where does this leave us? The answer is simple. Emotions should be allowed in worship, in Church, and our lives as Christians. In no way should they turn into manipulation or become the foundation of our faith, but they should be an expression used to celebrate our salvation in Christ with joy and love.
All scriptures used were English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
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