SOME would try to picture Christians as people running around “slap-happy,” regardless of the circumstances, and oblivious to the world about them (although it may be going up in flames). But is this how Christians should be looked upon? They are still human beings endowed and endued with the same emotions that are the lot of all. There are certain positive emotions and certain negative emotions experienced by all. However, our emotions are rooted in our value system. While saint and sinner may experience similar emotions, what triggers these emotions may be entirely different (and they many times will be). As a Christian’s life is one that has been turned around from a negative world of sin, it is one that has now been filled with many wonderful and positive things. Consequently, although he may experience negative emotions, they are tempered by his positive outlook on life. And the degree of the expression of these emotions, regardless of how intense is the feeling, will be determined by one’s individual temperament and psychological make-up (but, nonetheless, the emotions are there). Some people express themselves more overtly with their emotions than others.
A fusion of the negative and the positive emotions can be seen, with, no doubt, the positive dominating, when the women ran from the empty tomb to tell the disciples of Christ the good news. “And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word” (Matthew 28:8). It was not a fear of dread, but of the awesomeness of God and what had taken place (and their encounter with the angel). Their beings were permeated with joy at what had taken place. Christ was raised from the dead. But their emotions were still human, however directed in a different way.
Acts 2:41 tells us that “they that gladly received his word [Peter’s preaching] were baptized” on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 8:39, upon confessing faith and being baptized, the Ethopian came “up out of the water…and he went on his way rejoicing.” In Acts 16:34, the Philippian Jailer upon accepting Christ, “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” Yes, salvation is an occasion of great joy, in being made right with our Maker, but at the same time it can introduce a particular negative emotion not experienced before (especially if we are unselfish in how we look at salvation). Paul, looking at his fellow-Jews, who were not saved and would not accept Christ, said, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:2,3). These negative emotions were thrust upon him because of his positive emotions tied in with his salvation. He wanted others to be saved.
The epistle of 1 Peter was written to Christians experiencing persecution and great trials. Peter reassures them of their hope of the resurrection, the inheritance reserved in heaven, and their salvation in its fullness yet to come. Then he said, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations [trials]” (1 Peter 1:3-6). Their experience of joy brought on another set of problems. Being a Christian, this brought on their occasion of “heaviness.” “Heaviness” means distress, sadness. According to James 4:9, it is the opposite of joy. Yet their joy carried them through their trials and tempered the awful things they had to endure.
As a preacher of the gospel, John wrote of his converts, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 3). Even from the perspective of physical parents, Proverbs 10:1 states, “A wise son maketh a glad father [makes his father glad]: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” That which brings great joy has the potential of great sorrow, i.e. “heaviness.” The stronger the positive emotion, the more intensely the negative is accented, when the positive is taken away. The greater joy sees it’s opposite. Paul talked about his great care for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28).
We could examine the whole range of human emotions. These emotions are contrasting and varied. They include such feelings as joy, fear and sadness, as we have just noticed. We could list others, such as love (Matthew 22:37; 1 John 2:15-17; Psalms 119:113), hate (Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 2:6, 15; Psalms 119:104), anger (James 1:20; Mark 3:5; Acts 17:16), grief (John 11:35; Acts 8:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:13), disgust (Romans 12:9), etc. (and the list goes on). Such emotions still are part of the make-up of a Christian, being human, but, being rooted in a new set of values, are directed in a different way. The positive is fused and mingled with the negative. Christianity is not necessarily seen in a superficial display of joy and supposed happiness when the world is burning down, (how insensitive can we get?), but is personally realized in the settled demeanor and stability of soul in a person right with God. The positive prevails.
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