Saturday, April 25, 2009

More than a Feeling

Getting ready to speak on 1 Peter 1:13 - 2:3, I've been amazed at a little tidbit that I won't have time to explore much in the sermon. It's that love is "more than a feeling" as the song title of the 80's megagroup Boston describes.

Love and indeed desires grow, organically and inevitably, from a changed heart. That much I'm used to reading in the New Testament. It can't be forced by me.

Yet alongside these very clear images are commands to love, and even a command to desire something appears in 1 Peter! That is very counter our cultural view of love in America in the early 21st century. It's even counter some (according to the New Testament, apparently counterfeit) versions of Christianity out there.

The same passage gives the sense that there is unselfconscious activity, growing naturally from a relationship with God (a loving Father we seek to please and emulate, a loving Saviour whose kindness fires our hearts to serve Him, etc.); and alongside this, also the clear command to love, and to have new desires.

Gosh, love is commanded. More than a feeling. And feelings (or at least desires) are commanded, too! Certainly something outside of a person must be at work to make this true -- it cannot possibly be self-generated.

The only similar thing that comes to mind is teaching novice crews how to row. I had to command from the outside something that would become second nature to them. They lacked a vision for what was possible, because in their pre-rowing state, they did not consider certain movements to be normal. A fresh word consistently applied from outside was required to make the new thing endure. And more often than not, it was necessarily to physically move the rowers shoulders, hands, back, etc.

What do you think? Or am I in the clouds here?

My favourite version of Boston's "More than a Feeling" is the Scrubs lip-sync band, check it out here.

photo: Reuters, of Chris Nilsson, coach of the Cambridge University Boat Club.


Anonymous said...

Can love be an act of the "will" as something separate from, but linked to the heart?

Perhaps our current perspective makes too clear a distinction between feelings, desires, acts of the will, thoughts and the like? I certainly experience them more "mixed together" than I do totally distinctly. Sometimes I feel like I really hate something or was it the icky protein shake I had at lunch messing with my metabolism making me cranky?

Certainly I cannot usually conjure up actual feelings opposite to those I am inclined very effectively, but sometimes feelings do change as a result of something I did, deliberately or not.

I didn't like beer at first, but I drank it enough that I developed a taste for it. Am I on to something here?
Some random thoughts...

T4s said...


Does that coach have an eye patch? Cause that's pretty BA if you ask me. Also your explanation of teaching novice crew was really neat. Here's my fav version of the song:

did you hear I'm headed for SMU next year? Gonna make a Methodist out of me. haha

T4s said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Lewis had some good thoughts about teaching boys to learn Greek before they can read the classics. Duty and all that.

Good work, Clifford.

Clifford Swartz said...

Thanks for the feedback on a strange thing to find in the Bible. Or at least strange to me, since Jesus is clear that the heart must change and things in life proceed from that.

So if I am read one passage of scripture so as not to "confoundeth" another, I must understand that Peter is in fact speaking to the heart. That he is not looking for them to change their outside ways apart from changing the heart.

Clifford Swartz said...

Anon -- yes, I think that there is a mixture in our motivations and desires, and that we do make too much of a distinction between love as felt and thought or willed. Peter speaks of it almost entirely as something commanded, whereas Paul in Phil 2 speaks of "if there is any love", meaning, if it is present.

Taylor -- yea, the eye patch pretty much makes him the coolest thing on the river. And the a capella version of the song is great! Will you sing in a group at SMU? I did know you got in and hopefully congratulated you on your facebook wall -- but congrats again!

Justin -- that's the nub of the issue, duty. In the environment here, duty and obligation as a servant of Christ are marginalized to the extreme. To such an extent that there are the most extraordinary gymnastics exegetically with passages in the epistles, say, the whole second half of most of them. Any of that in Sydney these days?