Feelings. We all have them. While some are unspeakably strong that pull us one way or the other and lead us down paths we wouldn’t have knowingly chosen, others are fleeting and fickle which change more often than we change our clothes. As I stop and examine my daily choices, it’s shocking how much weight I have given these finicky emotions.
More than I want to admit, I tend to eat healthy ‘when I feel like it.’ I workout or wake up early to have a quiet time usually ‘when I feel like it.’ I model patience and grace with my kids or others when ‘I’m in a good mood’ and model impatience and short-temperedness when I’m not. As I was reading a passage from 1 John 2:1-6 this morning, I realized that I have allowed my feelings to rule my actions and emotions for far too long.
1 John 2:1 begins by saying,
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.”
It only took me a few verses to realize that BECAUSE I have allowed my emotions to reign unchecked and control the actions in my life, I have ‘sinned’. Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that we WILL feel strong emotions like anger, but WHEN we do, to not sin; to not let our emotions dictate our attitudes and responses. (see Ephesians 4:26)
While there’s a lot to unpack between verse 1 and verse 6, it was verse 6 that really got my attention.
1 John 2:6 reads,
“Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.”
What hit me is that we are to LIVE & ACT as Jesus did. It’s when we don’t act as Jesus did that we tend to ‘sin’. This verse made me pause and realize that the Bible doesn’t focus on Jesus’s feelings about things, but rather His actions IN SPITE OF His feelings. Occasionally, we read that Jesus wept or was angry, but even in these moments, Jesus’s choices and actions were never based on how He felt. I’m sure that Jesus must have felt exhausted throughout His ministry. But even after preaching all day, He was never short-tempered with His disciples and He ALWAYS showed them love and grace and patience-especially when they didn’t understand. Being human, I can’t imagine that Jesus’s feelings were never hurt, yet He still acted lovingly and gracious to that person. Jesus did not allow His feelings to control His behavior.
Conviction swept over me when I paused and considered how well I was doing living like Jesus did. Sure, I have moments when I’m patient and loving and gentle to my children or others who may frustrate me or hurt my feelings, but often, my actions speak MUCH LOUDER than my words-or who I claim lives in my heart.
As a mom, a wife, an entrepreneur, a current single parent and sole bread winner, there’s A LOT on my plate. It would be ‘understandable’ or ‘excusable’ to snap at those around me and be short-tempered with those who annoy me. But, is that what Jesus did? Is that how HE lived His life? If I want my life to reflect the difference He’s made in it, then my actions every day, must reflect His. As I reflected on this verse, I realized that my choices and actions-especially when I’ve been hurt- will be watched for signs of Jesus. Even though I profess to walk WITH God, if I don’t reflect that-ESPECIALLY when it’s the hardest, then how many times have I missed being the light that directs others back to Him?
How many people have wandered away in their faith and then saw my poor choices and emotional decisions as a reminder of why they don’t need God? How many times has my sin of unchecked emotionally based actions been a stumbling block to their faith?
Over the past several months, I’ve watched as my oldest mirrors me more than I’d like. It’s not my great qualities or characteristics that I see being reflected, rather my bad attitudes and impatience. I’ve watched him repeatedly treat his sister in ways that hurt my heart, and I realize it’s a direct reflection of how I’ve treated them or someone else.
What then, as Christians, are we to do? How can we make different choices?
For me, there are 3 things I’m focusing on. First, it starts with spending DAILY time with God. How will I ever see actions as the sin it is and understand my need to change if I don’t have daily check-ins with my Savior? Second, it starts with genuinely being repentant for my choices and actions and attitudes. Asking forgiveness from God and others when I have sinned against them. Humbling ourselves to others is a hard, but necessary step. Third, it requires me to use my God given stubbornness for good and to set my mind that I will ACT loving and patient and grace-filled until my feelings catch up. It requires me to decide that it doesn’t matter HOW I feel, I will still choose to act as Jesus would. To ask myself over and over and over, if necessary, the old WWJD (what would Jesus do?) question. If Jesus were in my place, how would HE respond? How would HE treat this person? Are my ACTIONS (not my feelings) mirroring His?