The Lord saw that the human beings on the earth were very wicked and that everything they thought about was evil. He was sorry he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So, the Lord said, “I will destroy all human beings that I made on the earth. And I will destroy every animal and everything that crawls on the earth and the birds of the air, because I am sorry that I made them.” But Noah pleased the Lord.
This is the family history of Noah. Noah was a good man, the most innocent man of his time, and he walked with God. He had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
People on earth did what God said was evil, and violence was everywhere. When God saw that everyone on the earth did only evil, he said to Noah, “Because people have made the earth full of violence, I will destroy all of them from the earth. Build a boat of cypress wood for yourself. Make rooms in it and cover it inside and outside with tar. This is how big I want you to build the boat: four hundred fifty feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. Make an opening around the top of the boat that is eighteen inches high from the edge of the roof down. Put a door in the side of the boat. Make an upper, middle, and lower deck in it. I will bring a flood of water on the earth to destroy all living things that live under the sky, including everything that has the breath of life. Everything on the earth will die. But I will make an agreement with you—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives will all go into the boat. Also, you must bring into the boat two of every living thing, male and female. Keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, animal, and crawling thing will come to you to be kept alive. Also gather some of every kind of food and store it on the boat as food for you and the animals.”
Noah did everything that God commanded him. (NCV)
When I was a kid, the picture of God I had in my little head was of a white-bearded old guy sitting in the clouds looking bored and paying little attention to the humans below. Maybe, once-in-a-while, he would take his divine BB gun and shoot people in the backside, just for some fun. Although I have considerably moved on from that type of theological vision, it seems to be a common caricature of God that he is often indifferent – and even more so that God lacks emotions (except maybe anger).
The Holy Bible says a lot about humanity. It says even more about God. In fact, Scripture is primarily about revealing who God is – the Lord’s character, attributes – and, yes, emotions. Much like my childhood misunderstandings of God, I am not sure why so many people tend to view God as lacking in feeling and emotion. Maybe the Enlightenment with its focus on reason, logic, and classification simply drained all emotion from God. It could be that contemporary humans project on God their own stoicism toward emotions. Perhaps we see emotions as unreliable and fickle, characteristics that God would not possess – and, so, we jettison any thought of God as feeling deeply about things. Whatever the reason, we will fail to know God as God unless we come to grips with a verse like this:
“The Lord saw that the human beings on the earth were very wicked and that everything they thought about was evil. He was sorry he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (Genesis 6:6, emphasis mine)
Rather than our emotional human nature being a result of the Fall, it is instead a part of our original design of being in Paradise with God. As God’s image-bearers, we carry the mark of God with feeling deeply about things, just like our Creator. In those times when sadness seems as if it might swallow us whole, we just may be closer to God in that moment than any other. God has a heart, and that heart has been hurt and broken more times than we could ever imagine. God’s emotions moved him to action. God’s sorrow led to destroying injustice.
The thoughts, attitudes, and actions of violent and unfeeling people very much trouble God – to the point of being heartsick. It is our emotional makeup which connects us and bonds us with the divine. The inability to feel is the ultimate disconnect from God.
Jesus also felt deeply about a great many things – so much so that he died from a broken heart. Recall that in the seminal Sermon on the Mount Christ’s first words to the large gathering of people were:
“Blessed are those who mourn.” (Matthew 5:4)
We underestimate the importance and the power of emotions to our peril. Biblical writers often purposefully contrast differing persons in their stories. In today’s Old Testament lesson, that contrast is most vivid between God and wicked humanity. Humanity had gotten to a point where they felt nothing. The violent behavior was a direct result of their emotional selves split-off from the rest of them. People were bifurcated, their humanity chopped as if a meat cleaver separated their feelings from themselves. Whenever we observe belligerent bullying, hate speech, meanness, and oppression – there you find a paucity of emotions. It is not the presence of feelings that brings about wickedness; it is the lack of emotional awareness and the absence of feelings which is the highway to a watery grave.
We are in the “Last Days,” that is, the time before the final event in the Christian tradition’s understanding of history. Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The righteous will enjoy God’s presence forever; the wicked, not really. These days are too often characterized by the kinds of behavior which lack the emotional depth of godly love and a heart of compassion:
“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4, NIV)
For me, learning to name my emotions and to observe where I carry those emotions in my body has been most helpful in connecting with my feelings – and connecting with my God. And, I must add, such an emotional awareness and kinship with feelings has brought personal wellness and compassionate ministry to others.
So, receive this blessing today:
The eyes of Jesus gaze upon you, stirring his heart with compassion.
The gaze of Christ sees your heart, your joy and sorrow.
The gaze of Christ sees your future, filled with the healing of emotions expressed.
The eyes of Jesus gaze upon you, filling his heart with adoration. Amen.