Emotions Commanded in Scripture

The Scripture does not only command us to do certain activites. We are also commanded to feel certain emotions. Thus an emotion-less obedience is not in fact full obedience. God calls us to follow and obey him with our entire selves – all of our bodily, sensory, emotional, spiritual, and relational existence. This might seem unreasonable, as we all know it is impossible to simply turn our emotions on and off. The Bible does not call us to look like we have emotions, but to actually have them. Such requires more than will-power, but the opening of our hearts to God in a process of thorough-going transformation and restoration. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes the process of Christian transformation aptly:

“When Jesus said ‘be holy,’ He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

While this might seem incredibly overwhelming, it is actually remarkable good news. From this we know that the religion we call Christianity is not simply about behavior modification or straight-jacketing your passions in order to conform to a behavioral norm. Rather, God would say that your passions are too weak, they are too easily satisfied, and Christianity calls you not merely to acquire this or that activity, but to have full liberation of the heart and body to fully flow and function in the manner God intended for humanity in creation. To be fully alive and fully human is at the heart of true Christianity.

The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but simply to show some of the extent to which God calls, indeed, commands us not only to do, but to feel.

(1)    Joy—Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again rejoice!” (also Psalm 100:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Romans 12:8, 12, 15)

(2)    Love from the heart—1 Peter 1:22 – “Love one another deeply, from the heart” (also  Romans 12:10)

(3)    Hope— Psalm 42:5 – “Hope in God…” (also 1 Peter 1:13)

(4)    Fear—Luke 12:5 – “Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.” (also Romans 11:20; 1 Peter 1:17)

(5)    Peace—Colossians 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…”

(6)    Forgiveness from the heart—Matthew 18:35 – “This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (also Leviticus 19:17-18; Colossians 3:13)

(7)   Zeal—Romans 12:11 – “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

(8)    Grief—Romans 12:15 – “…weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]” (also James 4:9)

(9)    Desire—1 Peter 2:2 – “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” (also 1 Corinthians 12:31, 14:1)

(10)  Tenderheartedness—Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted…” (also 1 Peter 3:8)

(11)  Brokenness and contrition—Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (also James 4:9)

(12)  Gratitude— Colossians 2:6-7 – “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him…overflowing with thanksgiving.” (also Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17)

(13)  Contentment—Hebrews 13:5 – “be content with what you have” (also Exodus 20:17)

(14)  Patience—1 Thessalonians 5:14 – “be patient with everyone.” (Also Colossians 3:12)

(15)  Kindness—Micah 6:8 – “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love (love, not just do) kindness.”

(16)  Compassion—Colossians 3:12 – “…clothe yourselves with compassion…”

(17)  Sympathy—1 Peter 3:8 – “Finally, all of you, have…sympathy…”

(18)  Cheerful giving—2 Corinthians 9:7 – “Each one should give…not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

(19)  Courage (do not fear)—Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified.” (also Deuteronomy 31:7, 23; Joshua 1:6- 9, 18; 10:25; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 1 Corinthians 16:13)

(20)  Confidence (do not worry)—Matthew 6:25 – “Do not worry about your life…”

(21)   Awe—Ecclesiastes 5:7 – “Therefore stand in awe of God.”

(22)  Hate – Psalm 97:10 – “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!”; Romans 12:9 – “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (also Amos 5:15)

(23)  Do not hate – Leviticus 19:17-18 – “You shall not hate your brother in your heart…You bear a grudge against anyone of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (also 1 John 2:9, 11; 3:15)

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