Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Love (1) Behavioural science

On Sunday I preached in my local church because our pastor was away on holiday.  Two consecutive Sundays allow a little more delving into a text. I was given freedom of choice though was concerned to try and listen out for God's choice - which seemed to be the theme of love.  All kinds of passages hit me as possibles but in the end I focused on 1 John 4: 7-21.

The sermon fell into three parts (they don't always):  God's love breaks the rules of common sense, God's love breaks beyond emotion and God's love breaks into the world's behaviour.  The second section majored on verse 11: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I stressed how the oughtness of God's love punches through emotions, feelings, moods. Loving God with all our hearts (headquarters of personality) soul, strength and mind, involves all of us breaking through the excuses why we shouldn't love - don't know him, don't like her, don't feel like it, don't see it as my responsibility etc.

I quoted Charles Finney, a great preacher who led the Second Great Awakening revival in the US.  Though immense emotion accompanied many converts he was desperately concerned that new Christians did not come to depend on their feelings.  He wrote: 'They should be carefully taught however dull their feelings may be, if duty calls (to pray, to love) DO IT.  Do not wait for feeling DO IT!  Do not wait for emotions..do it and you are most likely to have the emotions - the happiness of religion. (His block capitals!)

Afterwards a psychologist in the church approached me with a sparkle in his eye.  'Exactly', he said. 'That's behavioural science that I practice all the time.  I tell my patients DO IT even though you do not feel like it and the emotion may follow!'  Well, we are made in the image of God so it's not too surprising to find the principle at work.

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