“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
– Galatians 5:22-25
When the Father declared from on high, in the most dramatic way possible, that Jesus was His son (with whom He was well pleased), He was not simply introducing His offspring to John…the Baptist knew full well who he was being asked to baptize. As the herald of Christ’s coming, he’d been waiting a long, long time for that moment…the voice in the wilderness hearing the voice from the Heavens. Neither was He leaving Jesus with a little soothing validation at the end of a long day, expressing a loving Father’s affection, and nor was He carefully explaining to those others in attendance at the ceremony that Jesus was who He said He was, and not just some raggedy itinerant preacher.
No, when the Father declared Jesus for Himself, He was making a statement directly to you, and directly to me. God was looking forward to a post-covenant world, just as he was looking forward to a post-covenant world when He sent the floods. Just as the rain anticipated the rainbow, so God’s passion for His Son anticipates his passion for us in Christ. That joyful, abundant love is the cornerstone of our own relationship with Him. He so loves our placement in Jesus—He designed that placement specifically for each of us, and there’s a singular joy that comes from seeing a perfect design rendered in beauty.
In Christ, our emotions, our passions are harnessed, not controlled or suppressed. Our lives in Christ are lives of celebration and rejoicing: it’s how they were designed to be. Our emotions are designed for release: they’re a unique expression of Christ within, given as a gift to us so that we could properly experience the astonishing nature of the Lord, His creation and His Kingdom. Such catharsis can be overwhelming, but never negatively so—we’ve been redeemed from negativity, and we’re no longer subject to the world of the flesh, or susceptible to the negativity of our old natures.
What that means is that we’re not subject to the world’s skewed way of experiencing joy. We don’t feel that phenomenal soaring sensation and instantly develop the fear of losing it, or feel that sensation leave us and instantly become convinced that we’ll never get the chance to recapture it. That’s the negativity of the world, always inventing a trough for every peak, anticipating the wane after every wax. The fruit of the Spirit provides a capacity for an emotional swelling within us that doesn’t require a compensatory sagging to follow immediately afterwards. Again, it’s how they were designed: all high, no hangover, because God is good, and God is great, and God is really good at being great.
The problem is that many of us have spent so long in the world that we’re used to those peaks and troughs. God’s design seems almost counterintuitive to us… we’ve been told that the highs must be balanced by the lows for so long that we’ve come to see it as an immutable Law, and the natural response to the anticipation of pain is the withdrawal from the possibility of being hurt: controlling ourselves and our responses to stimuli so that we no longer experience the highs, in order that we may mitigate our exposure to the lows we just know are coming.
It’s the beginning of cynicism, of a calcification of the heart and soul. It’s damaging, to ourselves and to others: unhealthy and detrimental to our relationships. Joy, rest, peace, love, patience, etc etc—when those mature, level, unselfish and uncensored emotions are practiced constantly and consistently, we will move into the same emotional state of being as the Lord Himself. He is in us, and we are in Him. That’s not to say that we don’t experience lows in life, simply that for us they become a glitch, a blip, not a natural stage in our experience. In those times, God is our salvation, and the Spirit our comforter. To paraphrase Psalm 30, weeping may stay overnight, but joy comes home in the morning and kicks it out of the house.
We learn to love life in Christ, and to develop the basis of a spirituality that allows us to be one with the nature of God. Disavowing our emotional make-up can lead us into the cul-de-sac of a cerebral relationship, one that uses logic in order to attempt to experience who God is. When the inner man of our spirit forgoes partnership with the Spirit, we can often try to partner with God in our heads, not in our hearts. Being tied up by logic is many times more dangerous than being suffused with emotion. The head without the heart is earthbound, shallow and close-minded, bound within the confines of the skull. Logic will try to talk us out of faith, and rationalize the spiritual into the mundane. We become creatures of limited thinking…and the sky’s the limit for us.
Our lives are designed to be amazing, astonishing, for us to take on a transfigurative aspect, that not only transforms our selves but the lives of those around us, which in turn take on that same Heavenly design, become transfigurative. That transformation comes from the renewal of our minds, the opening and blossoming of the ways in which we think and feel, and the ways in which we use language to express those thoughts and feelings. Logic must give way to wisdom, and if wisdom is simply the application of thought to experience, then our experience is the sheer abundance and overwhelming fullness of God’s passion for us in Jesus.
Becoming vulnerable to His nature is a requirement of our lives in Christ. It allows us room to grow, to flower into reflections of that nature. This is what it means for God to have made us in His image: and this is what was in His mind when, on the banks of the river Jordan, He sent His Spirit down from Heaven to cover Jesus with His wings and declare Him for all of us, forever. We are His beloved children, with whom He is well pleased.