I made someone mad again. It seems that upsetting people is my super power!
In my defense, though, nothing I ever say is mean-spirited, derogatory or untrue – and I did apologize. But I have a way of saying things that are what leadership gurus today would call “Emotionally Unintelligent.”
I remember when I worked at the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the HR folks said we had to have a training in this new concept called “Emotional Intelligence.” I knew it wasn’t going to go well because of the five managers I oversaw, three of them were military retirees. This exchange pretty much sums up the meeting!
Facilitator: “Can anyone tell me what emotions are?”
Marine Corps Veteran: “Something other people have.”
Coast Guard Veteran: “A detriment to the job.”
Ah, my peeps!
I’m not as draconian as my colleagues; I think leaders have to take into consideration other people’s feelings. However, we’ve come to a point in time when feelings seem to be more important than the actual mission! People get offended at the slightest comment because instead of engaging an issue intellectually they are now just engaging topics emotionally. The pendulum has swung WAY too far away from reasonable emotional responses to an extreme where people’s emotions are determining how they view their world.
The same, unfortunately, is true in our Christian walk. Believers are trying follow Christ based on their feelings instead of their faith, and that, my friends, is a recipe for spiritual disaster. Let me give you a handful of examples.
The Partial Gospel Crowd
The first group is what I call the “Partial Gospel Crowd.” These folks focus on the “feel good” parts of the Bible and tend to ignore the harder parts because, well, they don’t feel so good! Scripture tells us to tell the truth in love and grace. Partial gospel folks have no problem with the love and grace part – they are extraordinarily good at it. They just have trouble with the truth parts of the Bible because the truth can be hard – I mean, REALLY hard like you’re not going to heaven if you don’t accept Jesus kind of hard. So, this group just sticks to the love message because it feels better and there is no risk in offending anyone.
I Don’t Feel That’s Right
The second group I call the “I Don’t Feel That’s Right” folks. They’re the ones that don’t agree with what scripture says about sin – at least certain sins – and say that because they don’t “feel” that God’s word is appropriate for today’s culture, they’re going to follow their feelings instead of God’s word. Francis Chan did a great sermon on this noting that today’s Christians find God unreasonable in what He calls sin and because we are more reasonable than God, how we feel supersedes God’s word. But it was Jesus Himself who told us that if we love Him we’ll do what He commands. And yes, He is God so it is HIS word! I don’t like everything I read in scripture either, but it doesn’t make it less true or less my responsibility as a believer to follow it – no matter how I feel.
I Don’t Feel God in My Life
This third group is one for which I have a lot of empathy. I hear people say this all the time, “I don’t feel God in my life.” And when they say this, the conversation usually evolves into how that person is not really following God or having a relationship with Jesus because they don’t feel Him. Jesus told us, “Blessed is he who has not seen yet believed.” (John 20:29). The truth is not everyone can “feel” God’s presence all the time. While we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, some are more sensitive to that than others. It’s hard for those who don’t feel that presence to stay connected to God. But, faith is not about what we feel it’s about what we believe! It is in those moments when we don’t “feel” God that we should double down on our scripture reading, prayer, fellowship, and commitment! If we follow our feelings and believe that God isn’t there, our decisions will be made as if God isn’t there and we all know where that leads.
I Don’t Feel Like Doing That
This is a group for which I don’t have much empathy. These so-called Christians don’t feel like serving, sacrificing or following Christ because it is uncomfortable, an inconvenience, and costly. They will say things such as, “I don’t feel the Lord leading me that way.” They use that excuse not to go to church, not to tithe, not to give to the needy, not to serve using their time or talents, not to reach out to those in lower positions than themselves, and not to do anything that would disrupt their comfort. In my reading of scripture, I’ve never found a verse that told me that I’m supposed to be comfortable. In fact, everything I read tells me that I am to sacrifice and die to the pleasures of this world. Yet, there is a significant number of people who call themselves Christians who just don’t feel like doing that.
There are probably lots more categories, but I think you get what I’m driving at! Feelings are not the indicator by which we should be living our Christian lives. Jeremiah 7:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure; who can understand it?” Our feelings do not always give us a true picture of the reality in front of us, which is why we are not to follow them and instead have faith.
Chances are good that I’m going to continue to make people mad; you can take the boy out of the military but you can’t take some of that military stuff out of the boy. I am a mission-focused and driven person that is less concerned about how you feel than I am about getting the job done. But, I’ll keep working on considering other’s feelings as I frame my responses, I promise!
In the meantime, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ I’d ask you to do a sanity check on yourself and see if your faith is more driven by the emotions of your heart or the faith you have that what scripture says is true.