Why do we have emotions?: To make you need people

30 01 2010

I’ve saved the best for last: The first reason we have emotions is to have a voice with which to respond to the world.  The second reason is to help heal our hearts.  But the third reason for which I think we have emotions is, possibly, the most important.

God gave us emotions, I think, to force us to need one another.

There is one obvious way in which this is true: We obviously feel longings and affection towards other people in our lives, and this draws us to one another.

We need to eat our emotions together.

But I actually mean something broader than that: It’s not just our longings and affections that draw us into relationship.  I mean that all of our emotions draw us into relationship, even the ones we wouldn’t expect, like anger and frustration.

You see, God has built a little trick into the mechanism of our emotions that forces us to need one another.  The trick is that emotions, in order to be complete, need to be shared.

Two posts ago I suggested that emotions are the digestive system of the heart.  Well, God has added a little twist: Imagine if you couldn’t digest food unless you were eating it with someone else.  Emotions are kind of like that.  They are a meal that has to be shared.

Maybe God is being more literal than we realize when he calls us “the Body of Christ”.  Maybe he really means that we are intimately connected to one another on a soul level, and that there are certain functions we can’t perform properly unless we embrace and foster those connections.

Remember these verses?:

“From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)

“from [Christ] the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Colossians 2:19)

Listen to those words: ligaments and sinews.  I hope on some level you’re saying “ew”, because that will tell me you’re really picturing what Paul is talking about.  And Paul even specifically mentions emotions when he talks about the ways that Christians are called to be intimately connected to one another:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

When we have emotions, one thing that we need is a trusted friend with whom we can share those emotions; someone who will not just tell us how to change the way we feel, but who will, to a degree, just shut up and feel right along with us.  You can try “dealing” with your emotions on your own, but it won’t work.  You can even pray about them, but your success will be limited: Because we are the Body of Christ, and one of the primary ways God has determined that we will experience him is through his presence incarnated in one another.

But don’t take my word for it.  Optimus Prime can say it way better than I can.  Here: Listen to him tell us about the power of being united in Voltr… er, Christ.

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