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Emotions can reveal sin but they never stand alone as the source of sin. Emotions can lead someone to desire to sin but there is nothing wrong with feeling them. Emotions are messengers. You’ve heard the phrase, “don’t shoot the messenger,” right? A messenger can bring good or bad news, and you should welcome both, as long as the message contains no lies.
Emotions Are To The Heart As An Instrument Panel Is To The Plane
A pilot needs to know the plane’s altitude, airspeed, and direction. The pilot could look out the window to gauge these values, but the plane’s instrument panel, if it is working correctly, will be more accurate. Knowing that your plane is 400 feet off the ground, traveling at 200 MPH, and pointed toward the ground wouldn’t be good news, but it would certainly be helpful to know.
Emotions Are To The Heart As Smoke Is To Fire
Emotions are a byproduct of the heart. Your heart (the core of your life) is the source of all your emotions. Your emotions provide a window into the condition of your heart.
Smoke depends on burning material. Without fire, there would be no smoke. It’s possible to observe or collect smoke only when material burns. Smoke is a byproduct of burning material.
Your heart is the source of your emotions like fire is the source of smoke. Emotions come from your heart to bring you a message. If your heart is well, your emotions will be too. But if your heart is sick, you will feel negative emotions (unless you work to suppress them).
Jesus talked about false laws (such as ceremonial washing) that cannot defile us. He made a point that evils deeds start in the heart.
Peter replied, “What did you mean when you talked about the things that make people unclean?” Jesus then said: Don’t any of you know what I am talking about by now? Don’t you know that the food you put into your mouth goes into your stomach and then out of your body? But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others. These are what make you unclean. Eating without washing your hands will not make you unfit to worship God.Matthew 15:15-20 CEV
Will And Behavior Can Be Sinful But Never Emotions
Emotions indicate the status of your heart. The “bad news” you receive from your heart can be painful. But it’s only what you decide (with your will) to do (your behavior) with the pain that can be sinful.
The choices you make, whether in your heart, mind, or body, can be sinful. You can hold onto bitterness (heart) without acting on it. You can think vengeful thoughts (mind) without acting on them. You can strike someone with the intent to harm (body). All three of these are sins, but what about feeling angry? Is it sinful?
If you hold onto anger it becomes sinful but the original impulse is only a neutral indicator. What will you do with your anger? Welcome your angry feeling so you can better understand the condition of your heart.
Thinking of anger (or other emotions) as sinful can lead to suppressing it instead of understanding and addressing it. The reasoning goes like this: Anger is sinful. I’m angry. I need to get rid of the anger. I’ll ignore it. Now that I don’t feel angry, I’m no longer sinful. While this avoids a sinful outburst for the moment, unless the source issue of the heart is addressed, the anger will surface at a later time and likely cause even greater destruction.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.Proverbs 4:23 NIV
To guard your heart try this reasoning: Anger is an indicator. I’m angry. I want to understand what is happening in my heart. I know when I address the pain in my heart, I won’t feel angry anymore.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.