Emotions and the Imago Dei

Our emotions can be troublesome leading us down paths we later regret, but should we attempt to escape them? Or can they be redeemed by God for a good purpose?

Note: This blog post is based on last week’s reading: 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Song of Solomon

Our Emotions and God’s Image

One theme that links the two letters of Paul (2 Corinthians and Galatians) and the Song of Solomon, is the theme of human emotions.  God created mankind in His own image and endued us with emotions. Our souls certainly have wills and thoughts, too, but emotions are very much a part of what makes us human and what reflects God’s image in us.

Emotions in the Song of Solomon

This is clear as the Song of Solomon poetically highlights the love of a man and a woman.  You may choose to interpret the poem as an allegory of Christ and the Church or God and Israel (as has been traditional), but, even so, the presence of irresistible attraction between the two parties throbs through every stanza.  They love each other.  They desire each other and suffer anguish when separated.  Nothing and no one else can replace the beloved.  They want to be together and they will do anything to be together.  Their union brings complete joy and fulfillment.

The Bride of Christ

So is the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).  When Scripture compares human marriage to the relationship between Christ and the Church, it is not demeaning the latter relationship but ennobling the former.  For those in a good marriage it is easy to appreciate the concept of Christ loving the Church because it is explained in terms we have experienced. We understand that the human relationship, although wonderful, is a pale reflection of the eternal, spiritual one to which it is compared.

On the other hand, single believers can rest assured that, even if they never marry in this life, there awaits them a life in glory of eternal joy and satisfaction far better than anything anyone experiences in human marriage. You, as a single who knows the Lord Jesus Christ who is our Bridegroom, are joined to Christ in an eternal bond.  In glory, you will know that you have missed nothing.

The Bride Endangered

Paul pours out his emotions in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians reminding us that the church in this age is still not fully sanctified.  There were problems—serious problems.  The Apostle shows the tender heart of God toward these congregations.  He longs for them to know the truth  and to flee the deception of false teachers.  He feels “a divine jealousy” for the Corinthians because he brought them to Christ to be His alone but some of them are in danger of going down the serpent’s deceptive path just as Eve did so long ago. If that happens, their “thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3 ESV).  He pleads with them to heed his warning.

To the Galatians, Paul also expresses a wide range of emotions in response to their veering off course through the influence of false teachers toward another “gospel” that taught law keeping as a means to be justified before God.  He is astonished (Galatians 1:6) and in anguish for them.  He considers that their former love for him and willingness to suffer for him has now turned to enmity which perplexes him.  [See Galatians 4:12-20].

Good marriages and the hearts of every godly pastor and elder reflect the Lord’s love for His people.  There is an emotional bond. God loved the world and sent His Son (John 3:16).  It was not some cold, unfeeling judicial act of God. Through Christ, God showed His longing to redeem people for Himself—for our good and His glory.

Emotions–to escape or embrace?

What can we conclude about our emotions?  Should we try to bury them or escape them?  No.  It is right that we accept our emotions as part of our God-given human personalities. But as fallen creatures, we need to recognize that our emotions are not free from sin.  They need the control of God’s Spirit.  We can and should let our emotional lives reflect the Imago Dei—the image of God in us.

Let the married seek to nurture and reflect the love bond between Christ and His Church.  Spiritual leaders must pray for and seek to love God’s people as He does—watching out for their souls.  For those who are single, rejoice in the promised marriage supper of the Lamb and the eternal state of bliss that await all who are His (Revelation 19:6-10).

This week’s reading: 2 Samuel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections of God’s Love

Human love is a reflection of the love of Christ for His Church.  For that reason, we can learn a little about Christ’s love from human love stories.

Today’s Reading

Song of Solomon 6-8; Galatians 1

Selected Verses

 I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me. Song of Solomon 7:10

 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,  was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.  Galatians 1:15-17

Reflections

In Solomon’s Song, he tells us of a beautiful and passionate love between a man and a woman.  They describe each other with tenderness and awe.  Each has found in the other all they could ever want in a spouse.  No one or nothing could draw them away.  They long to be together.  They revel in being desired by each other.

In officiating weddings, I frequently use a famous prayer by Dr. Lewis Evans, the same one our pastor prayed for Mary and me.  The next to last paragraph says, “May they never take each other for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, ‘Out of all this world you have chosen me!’”  Amen.

But there is an even greater love.  It is the love of God–love which existed before time. It is love which planned our existence and, if God is pleased, chose us to be His own and to do His will.  Paul marveled at the wonder of God’s grace–His undeserved, unmerited favor.  Paul never stopped exclaiming with breathless wonder, “Out of all this world, God has chosen me!”

Think about it

It is wonderful to know that the one you love so much, loves you just as much.  How much more to know that the Eternal God knows, loves, and has set you apart for Himself before you were born!

Do you marvel that it pleased God to reveal His Son to you?  No lack or longing obligated God to do it.  He chose to do so because it pleased Him.  Like the bride in the Song, never stop exclaiming, “I am My Beloved’s and His desire is for me.”

Unstoppable Love

Love overcomes any obstacle and pays whatever price necessary for the beloved. Unstoppable is the love that Christ has for His Church.

Today’s Reading

Song of Solomon 1-3; Second Corinthians 12

Selected Verses

 The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.  Song of Solomon 2:8

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.   Second Corinthians 12:15

Reflections

Over the centuries, Bible scholars have sought allegorical interpretations of the Song of Solomon attempting to minimize the obvious sensual language here. Yet today evangelical scholars hold widely that the poem speaks of the beauty of sexual love between a man and woman in the context of marriage. While sex has been and is abused by humanity the world over, when experienced within the boundaries set by God’s law, it is honorable and God-glorifying (Hebrews 13:4).   Paul’s comparison of the relationship of Christ and the Church to that of the relationship between a husband and wife does not denigrate the former relationship, but, rather, ennobles the latter (Ephesians 5:22-33).

The poem poignantly describes the intense desire between a man and a woman in love. This attraction is not degraded or sinful but exalted and celebrated. The beloved revels in hearing her lover’s voice. Her joy is palpable as she anticipates his arrival. He leaps over mountains and bounds over hills to get to her. Clearly, his love is unstoppable.

Paul is jealous for the Corinthian congregation as she seems to be on the verge of being seduced away from a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” by “super-apostles” (Second Corinthians 11:2-5). He has been making his case against these usurpers showing his own devotion to the Lord and to them. Though Paul is merely a messenger of Christ, he loves the Church on behalf of Christ. He loves whom the Lord loves, His elect people. So in showing that his ministry is authentic and reliable, he enumerates how he has paid and will pay a price to serve them in the gospel. “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls,” he tells them. His love, like Jesus’, is unstoppable.

Think about it

Are you married?  Consider how well your marriage reflects the godly love and commitment of Christ to the Church. Can you say to your spouse, “I am glad to spend and be spent for your soul?”  Whether you are a married or a single believer, think about the price Christ paid for your soul because of His unstoppable love for you.

Enduring Love

In our reading today (Ecclesiastes 11-Song of Solomon 8), we conclude the poetic books of the Old Testament.  Tomorrow we begin the Prophets, seventeen books in all.

In our English Bibles, the poetic books are arranged so that they end on the note of romance with the Song.  In my book I focused on a verse in the final chapter:

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
    jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
    the very flame of the Lord.

Many waters cannot quench love,
    neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
    all the wealth of his house,
    he would be utterly despised.  Song of Solomon 8:6,7 (ESV)

How strong is human love?  Some find it powerful enough to last till the grave.  But not all do.  Jesus said there would be no human marriage in heaven, but the Church, called His body and His bride, will be married to Him (Luke 20:34-36; Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:6-10).  Human love at its best is a faint picture of the eternal marriage of Christ and His bride.

It is of little consequence that you have not found lifelong love here on earth, as long as you have by grace through faith become part of Christ’s Church.  You will be part of His bride in a love stronger than death.  If you have this hope, rejoice in the coming marriage of the Lamb.

The Importance of Marrying in the Lord

“How can I find the perfect spouse?”  is a question many single people ask.  The Bible gives clear guidance on one attribute that is non-negotiable.

Today’s reading: Ezra 8:1-10:44

In a fallen world, no one can find or be a perfect spouse, but we, who seek to honor God, must wait for a life partner who is a believer (1 Corinthians 7; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

The Blessing of God through Children

In Bible times, an abundance of children was considered a good thing.  Today we meet a man who was blessed by God with a large family and with important responsibility in the kingdom of Israel.

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 24:1-26:19

The ability to conceive and bear children is not totally in our control.  It was even less so in ancient Israel so parents considered offspring to be tangible evidence of the blessing of God.  Obed-edom was blessed with eight sons and his grandsons were able rulers in their family.

How blessed are the parents who are able to see successful grandchildren! This may not be your lot, but believers can certainly mentor children and youth in the church as virtual parents and grandparents.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Respect for Women

Today’s reading: Ruth 2:1-1 Samuel 1:20

Some husbands show wonderful love and respect for their wives.  It is a delight to behold.  But there is One whose love for His bride is unparalleled in all of history.

We celebrate that love during the Easter season.  Have a blessed Easter!

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Marriage Laws: Ancient Israel vs. Modern America

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 22:13-25:19

“Marriage is for adults… A good marriage is not achieved in days, weeks, months, or years, but in decades of struggle, forgiveness and unshakeable commitment.” [from Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days page 75].

His Desire is For Me

It is wonderful to know that the one you love so much, loves you just as much. How much more to know that the Eternal God knows, loves, and has set you apart for Himself before you were born!

Today’s reading: Song of Solomon 6-8; Galatians 1

10 I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me. Song of Solomon 7:10

15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Galatians 1:15-17

Human love is a reflection of the love of Christ for His Church. For that reason, we can learn a little about Christ’s love from real life love stories.

In Solomon’s Song, he tells us of a beautiful and passionate love between a man and a woman. They describe each other with tenderness and awe. Each has found in the other all they could ever want in a spouse. No one or nothing could draw them away. They long to be together. They revel in being desired by each other.

In officiating weddings, I frequently use a famous prayer by Dr. Lewis Evans, the same one our pastor prayed for us. The next to last paragraph says, “May they never take each other for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, ‘Out of all this world you have chosen me!’” Amen.

But there is an even greater love. It is the love of God. It is love which existed before time. It is love which planned our existence and, if God is pleased, chose us to be His own and to do His will. Paul was enthralled with the wonder of God’s grace, His undeserved, unmerited favor. Paul never stopped exclaiming with breathless wonder, “Out of all this world, God has chosen me!”

Do you marvel that God was pleased to reveal His Son to you? God was not forced to do it. He chose to do it because it pleased Him to do it. Like the bride in the Song, never stop exclaiming, “I am My Beloved’s and His desire is for me.”

The God of Peace and the Peace of God

In the best human relationships, there are moments of deep disappointment, alienation, pride, and disagreement, but the God of love and peace is glorified when these are overcome and restoration occurs.

Today’s reading: Song of Solomon 4-5; 2 Corinthians 13

6 I opened to my beloved,
but my beloved had turned and gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.                                              Song of Solomon 5:6

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

Romantic love has its ups and downs, and Solomon paints that picture in his Song. Anyone who has ever been in love can relate to this: the exhilaration of the first glimpse of the one who steals your heart completely (4:9) and the agony of possible loss of that relationship forever (5:6). We feel this is a risk worth taking, because God said on the sixth day of creation, “It is not good that the man should be alone;” (Genesis 2:18a). So, most of us pursue a lifelong, loving relationship with a mate. Alas, it can be elusive.  When found, it is never without difficulties and setbacks. But it is pleasing to the God of love to find it, and to nurture it.

In the church, Christians are called to live in love demonstrating true discipleship through a level of sacrificial love faintly reflecting that of Jesus Christ (John 13:34, 35). The Corinthian church of Paul’s day had plenty of challenges. They were divided. They were drawn away from the true faith by “super apostles”. They were tolerant of gross sin in their midst. All this was lamentable, but not fatal, to the fellowship. Paul has instructed them in the two letters, which we still have, as to how to overcome these problems and be restored to a life of peace together. This is what God calls them to.

All of us, believers, need one another in the context of the local church. We are called out to be His body and to work together for His glory. He is not glorified when sin is overlooked and tolerated and when there is division and competition that negates the message of reconciliation with God. That reconciliation with Him is the foundation for our reconciliation with one another. For us who are married in Christ, we also are called to model, on a human level, the relationship of Christ and His Church. The same commands and promises Paul gave the church in Corinth apply to us who are married. Seek to be such that the God of peace and the peace of God are always with you.