Inspiration: Ephesians 5:1-21, Emotion

Dear Inspiration Seekers,

After raising the idea Experience, Paul moves to Emotion. From a neurological perspective, when someone is in a higher state of Emotional arousal, he or she is more likely to store memories of the Experiences occurring at that time. This can be used beneficially for remembering information and events by first generating laughter and excitement. On the down side, this same phenomenon occurs with trauma Experiences because of the anxiety arousal associated with the dreaded event.

Paul initiates the exploration of Emotion with …live a life of love, just a Christ loved us… (5:2) A few verses later, Paul turns the tables referring to …because of such things God’s wrath comes … (5:6). Love and Wrath. Those may seem like a wide span, with many variations in between.

In general terms, I think of the Christian New Testament as the story of the Christ of Love. The Hebrew Old Testament is the story of the God of Wrath. Christ instructs his followers to Love one another, feed the poor, care for widows. Obedience. God expels Adam and Eve, lets his chosen people get lost in foreign lands and deserts, and levels cities and civilizations, and exiles them from the Promised Land. Disobedience. Love and Wrath.

Emotions exist in the vague area beyond language. Emotions are Experienced not Thought. Without using words, we draw conclusion about someone’s Emotions by looking at their facial expressions, tone, rate, and volume of voice, by the presence of perspiration on the skins and heart rate. But in order to communicate other than this raw level of understanding, we select words to describe these Emotional Experiences. Love and Wrath. Adding more nuance, we might substitute Affection, Concern, Admiration, Compassion, Adoration, Interest, Attention, etc. Or, Anger, Rage, Hate, Hostility, Aggression, Frustration, Irritation, Annoyance, etc.

Emotions suggest connection and attachments. Rarely does one feel Love or Wrath toward someone for whom she or he has little concern. The narrative of the scriptures is a story about God’s attempt to relate to his creation, and the variety of Emotions that God expressed as that relationship fluctuated between Obedience and Disobedience. Paul outlines a number of behaviors that imply Obedience and warns of as many behaviors that point to Disobedience. God’s emotion of Love is connects with the former, and God’s Wrath is the consequence of the latter.

A critic might raise an objection here, questioning how a God of Wrath can also be a God of Love. Are these the same God? Two opposing Gods? Was not ruler of the kingdom of the air (2:2) identified earlier in Ephesians as the reason that people became the Object of Wrath? The flaw in this argument is premis that the Emotion, Love or Wrath, is either good or evil. Rather, I would argue Emotions are Experiences, void of moral judgment. The intent of the actions that arise from those Emotions are what could be judged to be good or evil. Concern for someone else’s well being can make you a Good Samaritan or a Community Minded Asshole. Anger about a situation might prod you to act to resolve a conflict, or to yell and destroy something.

Love and Wrath are not opposites. These are two Emotions that someone might Experience when someone is attached to someone else. The opposite of both Love and Wrath is Indifference. An Indifferent person, or God, would not be concerned enough to intervene at injustice, nor storm and curse in desperation. This is the agnostic’s dilemma: if God is a non-involved creator, that remains detached, then God is Indifferent to individual lives. God has neither Love nor Wrath. We are left as orphans. God must Experience Emotions to be personal, and concerned about people.

This brings us back to the opening of chapter 5, be like Christ and Experience Love. This is not a Love of flowers and sunshine. This is a Love of giving, submission, and sacrifice for others. This is a Love which needs to also have Wrath toward Disobedience. This section ends suddenly with a single sentence paragraph, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21). Submission. Love and Wrath. Obedience and Disobedience. Submission.

Until Next Time, Inspiration Seekers

P.S. My wife laughed when I told her that I was writing about Emotion.  Mr. Mellow?  I come from a long line of staid men.  My father’s nick name in college was Total Control Charlie.  I was called Cheri-O.  I don’t know whether the Vicar had a similiar title, but he has a repulation for longsuffering.  But, Experiencing and Expressing Emotions are two different phenomenon.  We might be caught in a behavioral trap of showing Love, regardless of whether this is what we are feeling.  This presents a potential problem, in that we might confuse or confound the person to whom we are relating.  He or she might be misled, might misunderstand what we are Experiencing, or worse, might view us as Indifferent when we do not show our Wrath.


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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5 Responses to Inspiration: Ephesians 5:1-21, Emotion

  1. The Vicar says:

    Whenever I see “therefore” I have to read what came before so I have some context for the logical sequence implied be the adverb “therefore”. Because of God’s offer od love through Jesus Christ, order can be restored. We are no longer objects of wrath, in fact we are adopted into God’s family, unified by his love. Paul’s prayer (Eph 3) is that we would begin to have some understanding of this love that God has for us. That becasue of all God has done, we would experience life, and that we would choose to live differently. This is a life of transformation. Fully loved, yet in process of learning to live out this new life.

    Our emotions give us insight into how we are filtering the life we are experiencing. In the western world emotions are often looked at as impediments to a productive life or seen as a weakness. But sharing emotions are also a part being in relationship, with God and others. I grew up in a stoic home where limited emotional expression fit my introverted nature just fine, but to be in relationship I’ve had to learn it’s not all about what works for me. In regards to emotional expression…. I’m a work in progress. Perhaps one day I’ll be transformed in this area of life, but I’ll get there one day at a time.

  2. The Vicar says:

    How about we start with a hug and work up to a kick? If we go with the kick first you might end up being the object of wrath and then I’d have to go back to the beginning… Order.

  3. The Vicar says:

    I guess this simply reinforces a family trait among the men that the best emotion is a premeditated or well planned emotion, which others might call no emotion at all.

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