Liberated From Our Emotions
In the introduction to this series, I reminded you that Love is not an emotion. When we study the famous “Love Is” list from 1 Cor. 13, we see that the first word in the list, “Love is Patient,” supports my original statement by taking the emotions out of the picture. Remember that patience is when we endure trials, hardship, abuse and adversity “calmly and without complaint.” The emphasis here is on removing the emotions from our reactions.
When we are liberated from our emotions in this way, we are then in a better position to behave appropriately. At this point it is worth mentioning at that “enduring” trials, hardship and adversity calmly and without complain does not necessarily mean that we play dead and do absolutely nothing. Being liberated from our emotions, we are now setup to do what is right, to behave in a righteous manner, and to hear from God about the things he wants us to do.
I think that is one of the problems with the topic of patience is that people have a tendency (myself included) to not take the study to its full course. We see that patience is enduring hardship and we stop there, thinking that we are just supposed to take all of the abuses and that is now the end of the story. Wrong! Patience is the FIRST word in the list, not the last. Yes, of course we are supposed to act. But our actions are not supposed to be emotional RE-actions triggered by the behavior of the people we are supposed to be loving.
Patience Is Not for the Weak
I shared with you a while back something that Pearl wrote on her blog about choosing what is right over what is good, today I want to share with you something else Pearl wrote to me in private but that I have had pinned up on the door in our dining room for about six years now. I see this as an example of Christ and what He did with His patience. When you read the New Testiment and learn about what happened to Jesus when he was tortured and crucified, notice that it does NOT say that he JUST died and that was the end of the story. The following comments are from a private email Pearl sent me while we were engaged. We were talking about getting closer to Jesus, having a deeper relationship with Him and what that meant to us. I have cherished these words since the day I first read them:
You are absolutely right. Our relationship with Jesus should be strong. I vaguely remember a sermon where the minister said that this relationship is an indicator of our maturity, and speaks of how well we have come to know God.
Many people are uncomfortable with relating to Jesus, the one who took all their punishment on their behalf and who bought their salvation with His life. I think a lot of us have a Sunday School image of Jesus – all sweet looking, patting a cute little lamb on the head. It feels a bit… I don’t know… soft and nerdy to have a relationship with the saviour that fits that kind of soft, weak image. We usually don’t imagine Jesus as the intelligent, tough, rugged carpenter that He was.
This was a man that could lead a bunch of strong, raw, uncultured men like His disciples, debate with community and church leaders, and get the attention of thousands of people without a PA system. I don’t think He was some weedy wimp who stayed in the shade and hung out in the library.
Yet when we close your eyes and think of Jesus, we get that soft, nerdy image spring to mind. I would hazard a guess that this image is part of what makes it hard for most people to really develop their relationship with Jesus.
I think we probably need to think more in terms of Him being our tough, unrelenting advocate – the one who acts as our defender before God the Father even when we don’t deserve it…. the “big brother” who will fight on our behalf and take the flack when we mess up. Jesus is not soft and weak, and until we realize that, we will struggle to relate to Him in a deep and meaningful way.
I just got a flash image of Him going down into Hell for 3 days to return with the keys of death. I don’t think He was sightseeing down there – He went in with the authority His sacrifice had made available to Him – He took the kingdom of darkness by force and brought back what was needed to release humans from the fear of death. It took a warrior who had ownership of His authority to do that – no soft, lamb-patting wimp could have pulled that off.
The interesting thing is that through Jesus we have that same authority – it’s just that most people never take ownership of it during their lifetimes.
The picture Pearl painted of Jesus in this private email to me was not of a man who took all of that abuse, humiliation, torture and then just died. No, this is a picture of a man who, because of the price he paid through his suffering, was then in a position to DO something about it. Jesus was executed but THEN He did something that changed the world. He stuck to the plan and liberated us from the curse of our own sins.
Stay Focused – Stick to the Plan
When we endure abuses and persecution, it is not out of weakness, and the endurance itself is not the final objective. It is only the first step in doing what is right. When the people in our lives treat us badly, when they abuse us, take advantage of us, insult us in any way, we cannot allow ourselves to become sidetracked from doing what is right. We need to stay focused and stick to the plan.
King David and Shimei
You can read a wonderful example of this kind of patience in 2 Samuel. First in chapter sixteen we find a man named Shimei cursing king David. If you don’t know this story, king David’s son, Absolom, is attempting to depose his father and take Israel for his own rule. Shimei cursed the king as he was fleeing from his own son. In chapter 16 David tells his men not to kill Shimei and he does the same thing once again in chapter 19, after Absolom has been killed and David’s reign is unquestioned.
I guess most people would look at that story as an example of mercy, but in the context of what we are studying, you cannot have mercy without patience. Someone who kills another man over insults and hurt feelings is not being patient. But I want to point out a very important point here, that even though David endured the curses “calmly and without complaint,” he didn’t just role over and die on the spot either. Upon being cursed, king David did not change his plans. He didn’t loose hope. He did not forsake his responsibilities as a leader.
When you look at the Shimei story from this perspective, you see an example of someone who could have let his emotions get the best of him. David could have had Smimei killed on the spot to satisfy his injured feelings. But he did not. He was patient with the man and stayed focused on his objectives.
The Journey Has Only Just Begun
That’s really how we all must try to behave. Being patient does not mean that we have hit the end of our journey. No, it is sign that the journey has only just begun. It is only the end when we let our emotions get the best of us. If we do not, then we have entered a new world, a spiritual world, that those who react emotionally will never be part of.
I have learned from experience that when we exercise patience and act according to what we know is right, people in the world will accuse us of doing precisely what we know we are not doing: reacting emotionally. How many times have I been accused of selfishness when my motivations were selfless? How often have I been accused of reacting emotionally when I know that my actions were based on what I knew needed to be done?
The lesson I learned from these accusations was simply to stay the course. When people accuse us that way, it is simply another level of patience. It’s another way for them to try to push our buttons. Often it is satan telling us that there’s nothing righteous about our behavior at all and that we were wrong to do what we did. But don’t fall for that line of attack. Staying focused in that context is just as important if not more important than the lower levels of patience.
Patience at this higher level can be something of a test to see what your motivations are for being patient. If your motivation is only to seem patient to other people, then you will fail the test. As I said, what looks like patience to other people rarely is truly patient. So at this higher level, we must choose between appearing patient or actually being patient.
If you desire to travel on a miraculous journey into increasingly more spiritual events in your life, then I encourage you to forsake the superficial look of patience and pursue true patience instead. That’s how the journey begins.
On a side note, by stretching, just a little, the application of Biblical patience to our everyday lives, you could also say that being patient protects us and those who rely on us from the people who would manipulate us through emotional appeals. Whether they be insurance salesmen (on one end of the spectrum) or sociopolitical activists (on the other end), we live in a society today that has forgotten the famous warning; “Caveat Emptor.”
Did you know that rushing you into making a decision is an age old sales tactic? After a motivator pitches his product, idea, cause or movement, pushing all of your emotional buttons in the process, he then informs you that you don’t have time to think about it. There’s no time for that. You must commit to a decision now!
Why would they do that?
Because they know that when you slow down long enough to think about it, you may become less emotional and therefore less likely to join their cause or buy their product. When we are patient in a Biblical sense, such tactics should not work on us they way they do on other people. We should not be easily motivated by fear, greed, envy or any other emotional appeal. As Christians, we should not be ruled by our emotions like that.
With this fourth post about patience completed, we are ready to move on to “Love Is Kind.” In these four posts I hope to have communicated well the idea that patience is not just waiting for something you want. Hopefully you understand now that patience is the act of enduring trials without reacting emotionally to them and that bearing such adversity is the first step in living a loving life as a Christian.