Exploring Hope: Are emotions good or bad?

There are some in our culture who say that emotions are bad. “They get in the way of true, intellectual rationality. They cloud our judgment.” Think of Spock from Star Trek, who always sought to be logical rather than emotional. He sees logic as the opposite of emotion.

But in our culture today, I think the dominant voice says that emotions are ultimate. “If it feels good, do it.” “Trust your subjective feelings because they are the measure of truth!” Think Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars: “Luke, trust your feelings!” That’s the message we hear over and over again in modern America.

But what does the Bible say about emotions? On the one hand, it affirms that God created emotions; they are part of his good design. But on the other hand, emotions can be distorted and broken in a sinful world. We can’t always trust our feelings.

So, where do we look for a model of true, God-honoring emotion? Jesus came into the world and took on himself a true human nature. According to the New Testament, Jesus had a vibrant emotional life. He wasn’t Spock, free of all emotion. He wasn’t Obi-Wan Kenobi who thought that feelings are everything. Instead, as truly human and truly divine, he felt deeply and loved deeply without being ruled or controlled by his emotions.

So, this summer, take time to read the biographies of Jesus in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You’ll discover the full-orbed picture of Christ’s emotional life. He felt compassion; he felt anger; he felt sorrow; he felt joy; he felt the full range of human emotion, yet without sin. And his emotional life teaches us important lessons about what it means to feel, love, and serve today as well. By God’s grace, may the Spirit of God shape our emotions to reflect the pattern of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us.

About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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