Latin America is a very emotional place – keep an eye out for the Latin American teams and their supporters in the World Cup next year and you’ll soon get the idea.
This “high octane emotion” is not only evident in the stands of the football stadium, but in church as well. Prayers in our church often involve tears genuine tears – both of joy and sorrow. There are churches here where I have experienced a level of genuine and authentic Christian joy not often seen in “the west”. For a pretty reserved bloke like me, this can be a bit of a challenge (although I can now give strangers a warm hug like a local!)
Of course emotions come with a warning. Emotions come and emotions go. They can be manipulated or turned on and off for show. You can feel great because you’re well fed, have a comfy seat and your favourite song is on the radio. You can feel bad because there was no milk in the fridge, the bus was late and there’s something wrong with the wifi. As I write this I am at the end of a long multi-location road trip and my feelings are “I’ve pretty much had enough and the next time I have to stand in an immigration or check in line, the groan may be more on the audible end of the spectrum than quietly internal!”
If we consider this rollercoaster of feelings in the context of the way we feel about God, whether we feel valued or loved by him, it doesn’t take long to see that we’re going to have good days and bad days, high times and low times. That is the reality of our life. The question is, what do we do about it? How do we respond, especially in the low times?
One of the reasons for the trip is that the GBU (IFES in Chile) asked me to speak on Romans at their annual training camp, and I’m thankful to them because it gave me the incentive I needed to get stuck into some careful reading and thinking.
As I was preparing to explain Romans 6 I noticed that we have something greater than emotions. In the context of explaining the new life that we have because we are justified by faith in Christ and not by the law, Paul uses these words and phrases.
“Do you not know…?” (v3)
“We shall certainly be…” (v5)
“We know that…” (v6)
“We believe (trust) that…” (v8)
“We know that…” (v9)
“Do you not know…” (v16)
“you have become…” (v17)
The chapter is driven by a whole lot of facts, things that we know, things that we can be sure of.
I’d say that Paul’s main idea in the chapter is not that we know things, but that the things we know (ie: the work of Christ on the cross) are very important – but I think Paul’s appeal for us to be living as people who have new life comes not from something that comes and goes, nor is based on whether we feel warm or cold towards God, but of facts, of knowledge, of sure things.
We know we are loved by God, we know we are a new creation, we know we are not slaves to sin. Therefore, we can be confident of our relationship with God, despite the way we currently feel.
That is great news, especially when you’re in a trough rather than a peak.