Summary: The goal of the Christian is to so gain control of his emotions that all of them in their vast variety might become valuable in making him what God wants him to be. Control is the goal.
John Powell, whose books have now sold over 11 million, begins his book The Christian
Vision with the request that we run a short home made movie on the screen of our minds.
Imagine that you have come home on a dark night and to your horror you see a long snake on
your front lawn. Your heart begins to pound wildly and the adrenaline starts pumping into your blood
stream. You quickly grab a garden hoe and in your frenzy you hack the wreathing snake into
pieces. Satisfied with your heroic deed you go inside and try to settle your nerves with a warm
drink. Later, lying in bed you still see the wriggling form on your front lawn.
The next morning you return to the scene of the slaying and discover you have chapped your
garden hose into a dozen pieces. It was a garden hose, but now it is green macaroni. Last night it
was a snake. It was always a hose, of course, but when you thought it was a snake it aroused your
emotion of fear and you attacked it like a foe with deadly force. The point is, our emotions are
created by our perceptions. They are caused by what we think, and the way we think. Emotions
are only as authentic as our grasp of reality. If we misunderstand or misconstrue reality, we will
have motions that are unrealistic. We will all agree that attacking a garden hose with a hoe is an
over reaction. The whole man is out of order. The mind is thinking wrong. The emotions are
motivating wrong, and the will is choosing wrong behavior. This is assuming that you need one
long hose and not a dozen real short ones.
What we need to realize is that though emotions are vitally important in our lives, they are not
infallible. Dr. James Dobson has written a book titled Emotions: Can We Trust Them? His answer
is no we can't. They are not reliable guides because they can be stimulated by so many variables
and, therefore, they lack stability. Not only can drugs affect your emotions, but the internal
chemistry in your body can make radical differences in them. The emotions are too subjective.
They can be aroused and you can be made to feel very strong about something that has no basis in
reality. He gives some illustrations out of his own life.
He tells of the high school where the football team consistently lost to their arch rival in a
nearby community. It was getting depressing and embarrassing. Finally a wealthy oil producer
decided to change things. He offered each boy on the team and each coach a new Ford if they
could defeat their bitter rivals in the next game. The team went wild with excitement, and for the
next 7 days they ate, drank, and breathed football. The entire school was caught up in the spirit of
ecstasy. Finally, the big night came, and you never saw a more excited team rush to the field. But
they were demolished 38 to zero. All the whoop-de-do could not compensate for their lack of
discipline and practice.
Dobson points out that the Jesus movement of the 1960's did not last because it was too
emotion oriented. These youth were highly emotional, but had little theological and Biblical
understanding. The result was many of them were soon caught up in various cults and sects.
Emotions are just not enough. Then he tells of his good friend Steve Smith who was with a
company of soldiers in Vietnam. Their first night out they were terrified as the sun went down and
they sat in their fox holes on a hill. At about midnight guns began to blaze away on one side of the
mountain and soon all of the soldiers sere firing frantically and throwing hand grenades into the
darkness. The battle raged through the night. Finally the sun came up and they sent out men for a
body count. Not one enemy soldier was found. This whole company had fought furiously through
the night an enemy who was not even there. The emotions had stirred up this battle and not the
His final illustration is of his mother and father who lived in Los Angeles in 1967 when the
Charles Manson murders took place. Everyone was on edge and one night they heard an intruder
in their house. They listened as they breathed shallowly and then another sound caused them to
leap out of bed in the dark and head for the door. Each had their own plan of action. His mother's
strategy was to put her foot up against the door and throw her weight into keeping the intruder out.
His father'' strategy was to throw the door open and confront the intruder head on. When he pulled