Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Emotions of God


Is God able to suffer, to be grieved, to experience emotions? He cannot be manipulated, overwhelmed or unexpectedly overcome by emotion, nor is emotion something to which He is involuntarily subject. However, God is fully able to enter into personal relationship with humanity. And in His sovereignty, He is fully able to allow Himself to be emotionally moved — to experience joy, anger, grief, suffering, etc. — by those with whom He is in relationship.

As people who have been created in the image of God, our emotional capacities reflect our likeness to God. So the emotions of God are very real and not merely anthropopathic projections. This is different from speaking of God in anthropomorphic ways (the “hand,” “arm,” “finger,” “eyes” of God, etc.). God is not physical, so to speak of God in terms of physical forms is purely by analogy. However, God is spirit, and the emotions are immaterial qualities (even though they may also have physical manifestations in the human body). So, although we cannot speak of an immaterial being in terms of material characteristics, except by analogy, we can speak directly of an immaterial being in terms of immaterial qualities such as love, joy, grief, etc.

Human emotions are out of whack. They have been affected by the Fall, humanity’s rebellion against God. So they are as much in need of redemption as are human minds — and God’s purpose is not to eliminate our emotions but to renew them, bringing them into line with His own.

God’s emotions are in perfect harmony, perfect alignment, and His work in us is to conform us to the image of the Son, Jesus Christ, in whom the divine emotions are perfectly expressed. That includes our emotions as much as anything else. God has given us the Holy Spirit to bring forth His fruit in us — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). All these reflect the character and qualities of Christ and can be summed up in one word: love.

Within the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the emotions of God are perfectly balanced and expressed, even apart from God’s relationship to creation and humanity. We can sum up that relationship as love, for God is love. In creating the world, God also chose to love the world — how could He create anything and not extend His love toward it?

When we love others, we are opening ourselves up to them, allowing ourselves to be affected by them. Likewise, in choosing to create and love the world, God opened Himself up to us and allowed Himself to be affected by us. Through the redemption we have in Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, God is bringing our fallen human emotions into alignment with His own divine emotions, so that, as God is love, we may be love, too.