In the widely popular BBC show, Sherlock, intellectual prowess and the power of deduction are what make Holmes notable and iconic. However, in the episode “The Lying Detective,” Holmes’ landlady, Mrs. Hudson, insightfully points out that Sherlock is quite emotional, despite what is commonly thought, and behaves based on how he is feeling.
Contrary to popular belief, he is not a calculating machine, but a human being with feelings. By the end of the episode, Holmes himself states, “It’s not a pleasant thought, John, but I have this terrible feeling from time to time that we might all just be human” (“Sherlock Quotes,” Magical Quotes). As poignantly depicted by the show, all people are emotional as part of their humanity.
Scripture also has a lot to say about emotions. Interestingly, the Bible details many different human emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, and love for others.
The human ability to feel emotions is not a coincidence, but rather is a result of being made by the Lord, who has emotions. Although people have emotions, they should seek to be aware and discerning of the feelings they experience and evaluate them according to the Bible.
We Were Created with Emotions
Humans have emotions because all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God Himself has and feels emotions. He gets angry (Zechariah 1:15; Matthew 21:12-13). He feels sadness (Genesis 6:6; John 11:35; Ephesians 4:30). The Lord was pleased with His creation (Genesis 1:31).
He loves and delights in His people (Psalm 149:4; John 3:16; Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:9). God also longs for all people to trust in Him for salvation (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4). Thus, the Lord feels emotions and created mankind to have emotions as a reflection of His own being.
Like their Lord and Creator, people experience a wide array of emotions. Humans feel sadness and grief (1 Samuel 1:15-16; 2 Samuel 18:33). They experience pleasure from creative pursuits (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
People can also feel anger and indignation (Exodus 32:19; Psalm 119:53). Importantly, mankind can love because of God’s great love (1 John 4:19). Being able to feel and express emotions is a part of being human, made in God’s image.
Although humans and their emotions were created good, the disobedience of Adam and Eve caused sin to enter the world (Genesis 1:31; Romans 5:12). Thus, mankind’s nature was and continues to be affected by sin. This is in direct contrast to the Lord, who experiences holy emotions, which are never sinful or selfish.
Man’s heart, however, is deceitful and wicked, which makes it very unreliable regarding emotions and will (Jeremiah 17:9). Human emotions have been negatively affected by the fall of man, which is why feelings can sometimes be misleading, sinful, and messy.
Following the Truth Instead of Feelings
Sometimes emotions are not a good indicator of reality or truth. Because human emotions have been negatively impacted by sin, feelings can cause problems if they are allowed to control decisions and beliefs. Scripture teaches that “those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe” (Proverbs 28:26, NIV).
In this verse, trusting in oneself is equivalent to trusting in one’s own thoughts or emotions (Strong’s Hebrew: 3820). Instead of trusting in one’s own heart and understanding, the Bible encourages people to follow God (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Following what God declares to be true is reliable since His Word never changes (Numbers 23:19). In contrast, following what “feels” to be true is unreliable since emotions are constantly changing and fluctuating due to situations.
There are multiple instances in Scripture where individuals listened to and followed their own emotions instead of God’s truth. For example, Cain was extremely angry because his brother, Abel, had pleased the Lord with a sacrifice while Cain’s own sacrifice had not been pleasing (Genesis 4:2-5).
Instead of realizing that his own sacrifice was not given sincerely and that he was being consumed with anger and jealousy, Cain caved into his sinful feelings. God warned Cain of the sin that was lurking to master him, but the jealous brother did not listen (Genesis 4:6-7). Because Cain listened to his sin-affected feelings instead of to God, he ended up murdering his own brother (Genesis 4:8).
Similarly, Abram (Abraham) made Sarai (Sarah) lie that he was not her husband because of fear of being physically harmed by Pharoah and his men (Genesis 12:10-13). God had already declared a blessing on Abram, proving He could be trusted (Genesis 12:1-3), but Abram did not demonstrate trust that God would protect him in Egypt.
Instead, he gave into his fear and sinned by lying about his wife Sarai (Genesis 12:18-19). Abram and Cain’s example demonstrate that people should not follow their emotions, but rather follow God and His Word.
Feelings Are an Essential Aspect of Humanity
While emotions should not control a person’s behaviors or beliefs, they do have a legitimate place in the human life. God does not want people to avoid or ignore their emotions because He created mankind with a variety of emotions.
Commonly, people will seek to push down their feelings, especially negative ones like grief or anger. However, God invites His children to pour out their hearts to Him in prayer (Psalm 62:8).
Christians should seek to feel and evaluate their emotions according to Scripture. They can talk to God about what they are feeling, just as David commonly did throughout the Psalms (Psalm 25:16-18; 55:4-8).
As followers of Christ, believers do not have to be afraid of expressing or feeling emotions because their Lord regularly experienced and expressed intense emotions (Luke 22:44; John 11:32-35; Hebrews 5:7).
As Pete Scazzero explains in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, “The call of discipleship includes experiencing our feelings, reflecting on our feelings, and then thoughtfully responding to our feelings under the lordship of Jesus” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).
Also, a person’s emotions can be a helpful indicator that points to areas that need to be dealt with and prayed over. For instance, Scripture teaches that anger does not bring about the righteousness of God (James 1:20) and should not be entertained in one’s heart (Ephesians 4:26-27).
However, anger as an emotion can show an individual that there is a problem in their heart regarding how they react to certain situations or people. Acknowledging this underlying issue under the emotion of anger can help a believer better understand and deal with the sin that prompts them to anger.
Like a thermometer, which detects when and if a person has a fever, so also can emotions be good indicators of when there is a heart problem in the way a person is relating to events, items, or people.
What Does the Bible Say about Emotions?
Therefore, emotions are mentioned throughout the Bible and are a legitimate part of human life. God created humans with emotions because He has emotions and mankind is created in His image. Although the Lord’s emotions are perfect and holy, human emotions have been negatively affected by the fall of man.
Because of sin’s effect on emotions, humans should not rely on their emotions for guidance, but instead, trust in the Lord and follow Him. Finally, Christians should be willing to interact with and feel their emotions based on the truth of Scripture.
Oftentimes, emotions can serve as helpful indicators, which can assist believers in recognizing a sinful heart issue. While emotions should not be the basis of a believer’s beliefs or actions, feelings are an essential part of humanity and reflect mankind’s unique position as image-bearers of God.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.