We are not robots, so don’t worship like one.
Caution! Reading this article may stir your emotions.
Should we strip all emotions from our worship? Some denominations might still answer “yes”.
It is Biblical
King David’s worship was dripping with emotions – emotional displays that would be uncomfortable to me and to you, but apparently not to God. And Jesus had emotions as well. For crying out loud God wept! He rejoiced. He raged in righteous fury and He felt compassion for the crowds. And the Gospel writers thought it important enough that we should know about it. Given such evidence, it would be difficult to argue from Scripture that emotional expression is out of place in the worship of God.
Lot’s of Questions; No Answers
So why are we supposed to shun our emotions in worship? Why can’t we have emotions while singing hymns? While praying? While receiving the Lord’s Supper? While just contemplating? Why shouldn’t worship be emotional? Why shouldn’t singing be emotional? Why can we be emotional towards each other but not towards God? Why did God give us emotions? Will our worship in heaven be joyous? Joy is an emotion!
Now I’m Really Getting Angry!
So let’s talk about emotions. I am talking about joy at Easter. I am talking about sorrow on Good Friday. I am talking about remorse during the confession of sins and joy and relief during the absolution. I am talking about tears. Anger. Confidence. Frustration. Elation. Delight. Peace. Awe. Love. Fear. Sadness. Anticipation. Shame. Grief. Surprise. Sorrow. Wonder. Excitement. Hope. These are all natural responses that flow from a genuine relationship with the living God.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21)
Look at Me! Look at Me!
I am not talking about making a spectacle of oneself, being a hindrance or a distraction. I am talking about being real. I am talking about being yourself. I am talking about being a person and not a stone. I am talking about emotions motivated by truth.
We should all worship God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength. This includes all our emotions. Half-hearted worship is no worship at all. Worship is the highlight of my week so my emotions will naturally be higher than during the week because God is to be desired above all things. I am not the type of person that compartmentalizes my secular life from my church life. I listen to the same music in both places and if I have emotions at home I will also have emotions in church.
The difference between music, and the written word, at a fundamental level – is emotion. Music evokes emotion. Music moves me. Music should move you. It should stir your heart and pull on your heart strings. Music without emotion stinks because God designed it to be emotional from the get go. God invented major keys to be happy and minor keys to be sad. That’s just the way it is. Don’t fight it.
So don’t hide your emotions in worship. Don’t leave them at the door. Every hymn or song has an unwritten direction that should be written under the writer’s name. It should say “Sing with emotion.” Some of our songs do have little instructional notes like “sing joyfully” or “with great feeling”. Don’t be afraid of this. Embrace it. Your music will sound better. You won’t miss that penultimate note that the artist intended for you to sing. Your worship will improve. There’s nothing worse in worship than to hear a deadpan, lifeless, expressionless group of believers droning out a dirge-like tune as if the words mean nothing to them. God detests this kind of worship. He got an earful of it in Amos 5.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep! – Romans 12:15
The Dreaded Frenzy!
I have heard some in the traditional church claim that the contemporary churches use the newer music to “whip our emotions into a frenzy.” This is preposterous. This has not been my experience and we’ve been using contemporary music for almost a decade. The motive is not to deceive people or to manipulate, it is to honor Christ, to show our love towards Him and worship and glorify Him in the best ways we can. These claims are hypocritical and judgmental and are hurting the church at large. These accusers have gone off-course. They have turned grace into condemnation and truth into judgment. The church has enough enemies and mockers without us believers throwing bombs at one another trying to guess what each other’s motives are.
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. – Wormwood, the Devil (C.S.Lewis)
Us old timers, self included, have been taught to hide our emotions. This is not the case with the younger generation. In fact the opposite is true and they can see right through our facade. We need to understand this if we are to grow the church.
So some of us will sit in worship like an ancient Reformation era tombstone because God made us that way. Cool! But let’s not judge the heart of those different than us because that’s God’s job, not ours.
God deserves our highest, purest, strongest emotions.