From 2007-2010, I worked as a billing clerk for a trucking company, R+L Carriers. Stationed at the Wilmington, Ohio headquarters for the first several months, I was one of only two male billing clerks in the department. The other guy was a huge fan of Insane Clown Posse. We didn’t talk much.
But a Christian heavy metal group called Demonhunter paired well back then with commuting on my motorcycle until they gave me permission to work remotely from home. It was like a dose of masculinity offsetting what otherwise felt just a touch effeminate about what I did for a living – not least because my dad and one of my brothers-in-law were truck drivers there.
Yet the older I get, the less sustainable the intensity of Demonhunter feels. For one thing, I’m getting more easily tired the older I get. Gotta conserve that energy. For another thing, I realize more the older I get that greater carefulness is needed in addressing complex, high-stakes situations and issues. More than intense emotion is required of me.
Still, every now and then, I turn on this heavy stuff as a kind of palate cleanser, especially if an opposite sentiment like meekness, gentleness, kindness, or patience seems as though it’s been stressed overmuch in recent engagements relative the broader context of life generally.
But I also think of where James says we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. And I’m just not convinced a steady diet of angry music is any more helpful than committing to a steady diet of some other sentimental fare.
Yes, Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that there is a time and season for everything under heaven. That includes – to my mind, at least – a time to get angry and make just war. But that doesn’t mean you want to become the theological equivalent of a Norseman berserker, unable to distinguish friend from foe, swinging wildly in all directions just because there’s a war on.
The same holds true for other sentimental imbalances. I’m reminded of a line from John Reuben’s album ‘The Boy vs. The Cynic.’
“And entertainers sing of extremes that don’t exist for you and me.”
Where James says the anger of man does not bring about the righteous life God desires, we do well to consider whether other emotional states do. I mean this as a sincere question. All the while, I suspect the answer is in the negative.
We clearly are emotional beings. God made us that way. There’s no sense apologizing for it. Moreover, I believe our being emotional is part of what it means that we are created in His image. So setting a goal of showing no emotion is not good. Instead, our goal should be to feel the appropriate emotion for each situation based on what is good and true.
The Whole Christ
If I’m right about that, we should guard our hearts. We should take regular inventory of the emotions we’re feeling and being influenced to feel – by music, imagery, words, relationships, décor, festivities, press releases, the news cycle, and even by God’s Word. And just like we should be weighing whether we are thinking rightly about God and one another, or any other object or event, we should also be weighing whether we are feeling rightly.
This holds true even of the recent book by Sinclair Ferguson I read, ‘The Whole Christ,’ concerned with, as the subtitle says, ‘Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters.’
It’s not hard to see how emotions ran high where discussions turned in 18th century Scotland to the proper order of operations with regards to Law, Grace, Works, Salvation, and the Gospel. Controversy arose in relation to the pseudonymously published work by a certain E.F., titled ‘The Marrow of Modern Divinity.’
Scottish Presbyterian denunciations were traded. The Church of Scotland split over it.
At a certain point in such discussions, emotions begin to run high not just because of the topics and relative positions to them, but also because personal and institutional reputations are on the line.
Yet all the more rather than less, works and stories like this can prove instructive regarding the need not only to keep close watch over our doctrine and conduct, but also to regulate our emotional responses to ideas and works, especially disagreement about the same.
Some one brings up Law, and another one brings up Grace. Both relate to Salvation in Christ somehow, and those invested in such matters feel strongly about all of the above. Yet regardless how we feel, what does God’s Word say?
Whether godly repentance precedes or else follows Grace, and whether we should live our Christian life according to the Law or else in a lawless fashion – these are important though admittedly tricky questions. Yet they are far trickier questions if we become addicted to the emotions of the moment.
Again, we are emotional creatures. And that is generally speaking a good and necessary part of the way God made us. Yet our emotions can only come into proper alignment with the truth if we like the Greeks who came to Philip in John 12:21 say as they did.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
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