by Lim Chong Teck
God created man in His image. (Gen 1:26) Man was created with a physical body and a spiritual soul having an intellect, conscience and emotions. In fact, man was so wonderfully made that the Psalmist said in Psalms 139:14 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Indeed in addition to this, man was given a free will to decide what he wants do and will do with accountability (Ecclesiates 11:9). His decisions and actions will be made or influenced by his thoughts and emotions.
Ideally all these attributes (i.e. intellect, conscience and emotions) should help one to make a right decision or response, yet this is not always the case. Sometimes our thinking process is weak, sometimes we allow our emotions to cloud our judgment and override proper behaviour. Therefore it is necessary to look to God and His word for guidance. Jeremiah 10: 23 says that “it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” Proverbs 14:12 : “There is a way that seems right to man but it’s end is the way of death.”
All faculties guided by the Word would be functioning at its best, obtaining the ideal results. Emotions often move us more than mere reasoning. Today we take a look at several emotions that affect our thinking and response. 1 John 3:11-15 tells us of one very strong negative emotion : hate.
Hate is a very powerful emotion. Strong’s dictionary describes it as: “to dislike intensely or passionately.” Vines expository dictionary gives the following description:
a. malicious or unjustifiable feeling toward innocent or by mutual animosity (ex. Matt 10:22,Luke 6:22)
b. a right feeling of aversion (dislike) from what is evil. (Heb. 1:9)
c. a relative preference of one thing over another by way of expression, either aversion from or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another (Matt 6:24) and Luke 16:13 as to impossibility of serving two masters, Luke 14:26 as to claims of parent relatively to those of Christ.
(Note: The word hate in these verses give us the meaning of love in different degrees, loving one person more than another and not hate per se)
Positive emotions are strong drivers to compel us to do good, while negative emotions make us do otherwise. Hate is a very strong emotion that can be deadly in its full proportion. In its negative form, Hate in a person’s heart can drive him to become a murderer. Love in a person’s heart can compel him to give his life for a brother.
During the time of Jesus, some people said that hate that is directed at enemies is justifiable (Matt 5:43). Others may have hate at certain groups of society or even among family members. In fact you may even hate someone without a cause (Psalms 69:4a: “They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head.”)
The first sin recorded in Genesis 3 was a result of being deceived and of succumbing to the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. The second sin recorded started with emotions which later became uncontrolled. It came from anger (Gen 4:5) and a fallen countenance (downcast spirit, discouragement) that turned into jealousy and hate (1 John 3:12-15), and finally resulted in the first murder in the world.
We should be careful of our anger and our discouragement. God warned Cain that sin was knocking at the door if he let these negative emotions rule. No wonder in James 1:19, we are exhorted “to be slow to wrath” because further in verse 20 it says “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
It seems true for most of the time our anger is very seldom like that exhibited of Christ, a righteous anger. For most, it has been when we are hurt and not when God’s name is hurt or taken in vain. In Ephesians 4:26 we are exhorted to “be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” One of the ways to control our anger is to limit its time.
Discouragement is very real for those who fail but we should not give up. In fact we can take comfort from the second chance that was given to Cain by God when He encouraged Cain that “if thou doest well, shall not thou be accepted?” (Gen 4:7) If Cain had followed God’s instruction, he would be accepted also.
At the same time we should also heed God’s warning that if we let these negative emotions carry on, sin is knocking at our door and we may give it opportunity to come in. Negative emotions cultivate or attract more negative emotions. Beware of how Cain’s emotions evolved from anger and discouragement to jealousy and hate. And when it became full blown, he became a murderer. We should never let hate reside in our heart unless it is hate for iniquity (Heb 1:9).
We should always try to replace our negative emotions with positive ones as soon as possible. We can do this when we accept God’s encouragement and correction rather than resent Him for His correction because He cares for us and wants what is best for us. (Heb 12: 5-6).
Prayer is a good way to deal with our emotions. Fear and anxiety can be changed to peace of mind (Phil 4:6-7). Hate or anger can be changed to compassion when we consider our own shortcomings before God (Matt 18: 22-35, Luke 18:10-14). Just as our emotions can influence our thinking, our thoughts when properly directed can influence our emotions.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” When we think of positive things we become filled with positive emotions.
Thank God for creating us with emotions, to feel, to be touched, to experience life like no other creature on earth can. May we always be aware of the strength of these emotions and may we glorify God with our lives.