“I don’t think it, I feel it.”
This is the climatic line from a movie my daughter watches all too often about small colorful creatures who are happy all the time. I have heard it many times before, but yesterday, it all of the sudden hit me. This is the modern mindset. Or should I say heart-set?
There is a trend where feelings have taken the place of thinking. People want to feel something is true, or feel something fits, or feel that it is right for them. They don’t trust thoughts or facts anymore - feelings trump them all. How they feel about something is the end-all be-all. And if their feelings tell them one thing, that is what they will follow no matter if everything else is telling them something different.
This means people aren’t concerned whether their actions and motives have been thought out anymore. They have been felt out. They don’t want to have someone reason with them, they want someone to stir their passions. They don’t desire logic; they desire tear-jerking emotions.
This is not everyone, but it seems like it is a growing tendency in the up-and-coming generations. This really hit home with me a few years ago.
There I was sitting in a coffee shop with a young man I had mentored and been in discipleship with for several years. He knew the gospel. He knew what God wanted from him and required of him from the Word. And yet here he was in tears saying he felt (yes felt) he was supposed to divorce his wife and pursue a life with his boyfriend. I lovingly challenged him and pointed him back to the Word. And he admitted that he knew what I was saying was right, but it didn’t work with what he was feeling. His feelings won out. He felt that God would only give him feelings and emotions like this if he was supposed to act on them. He didn’t care if he wasn’t thoughtful, he was feeling-full.
But this isn’t a single case on the far side of town; this is a way of viewing life that is in our churches. People want to feel. They will evaluate everything through how it makes them feel. Even if the language of evaluate and feel seem at odds, that is how they approach new information. Even some mature believers in our churches will process what they hear on a Sunday by how it makes them feel. If the sermon made them feel bad, they will discount the message. If the sermon made them feel good about themselves, that is what they will take away from the service. Feelings have become the filter through which everything has to pass.
What does this mean for our presentation of the gospel? To truly present the gospel, you have to offend and that offense will run right up against the filter of feelings. To truly correct a people’s way might call for some loving rebuke. Again, that runs into the filter of feelings. To exhort a congregation to action requires them to change, which often doesn’t pass the feelings test.
This means that we who are called upon to preach and teach must aim for hearts. We must communicate in winsome ways that can pass through the feeling filter and get at the mind because we need to speak to both. We need to present the gospel and its outworking in such a way that conveys the truth and action, hitting the head and mind, as well as motivating that action and change, hitting the heart.
Through the grace of God and the gospel working on the congregation’s hearts, they will start to see that filtering life by feelings is not what we are called to. God calls us to die to self, to deny ourselves, to follow Him no matter what. Often that means we will be doing things that don't feel great. And what is more, our affections will be changed in such a way that we will begin to feel, yes feel, like we need to do these very things we used to avoid. Only then we will do them because our hearts and feelings have been given over totally to God.