Should we “go to church” without emotion?
Should we “go to church” without emotion, when we’re feeling apathetic toward worshipping Him?
There seems to be a trend in the world, and among Christians, to think that we should only obey God or “go to church” when we are really “feeling it”. After all, if our heart isn’t in to our worship service, does it really do any good? We’ve even started justifying our inactivity by saying things like, “If I go right now, I won’t MEAN it. And I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so I’ll just stay home.”
My answer is that YES….Even when we’re not “feeling it”, when we’re apathetic toward God’s commands, we should still make the effort to obey them. Let me clarify that answer, and the rest of this post, by saying two things…
- Our ultimate goal as Christians should be to have our hearts in line with God’s will and strive to always want the same things for our lives that He wants. But since that’s never going to be completely the case for everyone, we’re discussing a worthwhile question.
- I’m talking strictly in the short-term. If you are looking forward to the rest of your life and thinking, “I just can’t see myself following God in ten years.”….You’ve got a serious issue with your heart and just going through the motions of obeying God isn’t going to do you any good. But I’m talking about the short-term. I’m talking about sitting at home at 6:30 and thinking, “I just really don’t want to go to worship services at 7.” I’m talking about a Christian who is living faithfully but just can’t get motivated to obey God in the next few hours.
And in that sense, in the short-term, I believe that we should absolutely obey God–even without emotion.
I think Jonah is a good example of this…..Jonah didn’t WANT to obey God and go to Ninevah, so he fled to Tarshish. Then he was swallowed by a great fish and spent three days in its belly. THEN Jonah cried out to God and was vomited out on dry land. But even as Jonah spent days preaching fervently to Ninevah, he didn’t WANT to. We can see this in chapter four of Jonah when he is angry that the people of Ninevah repented. Jonah didn’t ever WANT to serve God in Ninevah, but he did.
And just like Jonah, when we obey God without emotion…when we’re not “feeling it”…we accomplish several things.
- We benefit the world. The Bible tells us that there were over 120,000 people in Ninevah. People that needed to hear God’s message and who repented and turned to Him. 120,000 people that would have been doomed if Jonah would have followed his emotions rather than God’s commands.
- We benefit other Christians. When we assemble with other Christians they’re edified by our worship. Singing and praying aren’t just for God….they’re for us too. My singing (well, maybe not MY singing, but somebody’s singing…) should be an encouragement to my brothers. What about your brother who’s struggling through a rough week and needs that “support group” of fellow believers on a Wednesday night? When you abandon worship services because you don’t “feel” like going, you’re abandoning your brothers and sisters who need you.
- We benefit ourselves. In obeying God, particularly in assembling with other Christians, we expose ourselves to the power of God’s word. If you’re not “feeling like” serving God, you need a giant dose of God in your heart. And you won’t get that sitting at home indulging your apathy. Assembling with other Christians gives us the chance to see God, through His word and through the power of His word and how it helps the people we love. And seeing God, coming to know Him, is what our hearts need when our love for Him grows weak.
If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll see that if we only obey God when we are really feeling like it, we’re really not obeying Him at all……We’re just doing whatever WE want to do. And I think that’s ultimately what “going to church” without emotion is about. We have an option to open a door and let God in or shut that door and just wallow in our own emotions. So we should be opening that door and letting Him.
By forcing ourselves to do what we don’t want to do, by denying ourselves for the sake of God, we allow God into our hearts (where we need Him the most).