I have appreciated the focus that so many churches have taken to eradicate emotionalism from their central focus and place prime importance on the teaching of God’s Word and the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I am so thankful for seriousness when it comes to theological pursuit, I have also sometimes been concerned about some react against emotionalism by grasping onto intellectualism. In the pendulum swings of life, it’s easy to react against emotion to the degree that faith becomes purely intellectual. In reaction to emotionalism it’s possible for a church to become more of a theological seminary rather than the fellowship of the saints.
In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Jesus makes some comments that help us to realize that engagement with the truth of his kingdom is so much more than an emotional experience or an intellectual pursuit. There seems to be a problem with humans that we can see and hear and not understand. In Matthew 13, Jesus uses this word, ‘understand (suneintos)’ in a way that shows us that it is much more than experience or intellect. Jesus shows in the parable that understanding is associated with fruitful living. Understanding is associated with the ability to persevere through hardship. Understanding is associated with resisting the desires of the world, and understanding is associated with a fully engaged pursuit of Christ. There is here an aspect of both an intellectual understanding of the gospel, and a heart-felt need for Jesus that results in a passionate devotion to living in his kingdom.
We must engage with doctrines and not simply emotions, but we must also engage with the reality of doctrines in a whole person response. Only when we can know the poverty of Spirit associated with understanding sin can we know the reality and motivation for repentance. Only when we can know the victory of Christ’s resurrection can we know the reality and motivation to live a life which is truly life. Only when we know the expectation of his return can we yearn in the anticipation of the realization of hope. Only when all of these truths impact the thoughts, words and actions of our life can we see that faith is far beyond the shallowness of emotional response and intellectual pursuit.
We need to understand in the only way that faithful understanding truly is. Let’s not let a reaction, even a right one, keep us from this. We must engage with truth and contemplate the reality of Christ and his kingdom deep in our being. We must respond not only in intellectual agreement or burst of emotion, but heart-felt knowing devotion.