Emotions. We all have them. They can cause us to do all sorts of crazy things. Especially around this time of year many benevolent organizations play on our emotions, showing pictures of hungry children or homeless people, hoping that will prompt us to give to their adoption agency or shelter. Nor is it limited to the winter holidays. Almost every advertisement is designed to touch some emotion: a desire to belong, to be liked, to have fun. When was the last time you saw a car commercial showing how slow it could go? How many beer commercials show people lying in the gutters or crashing their vehicles instead of partying? On the other hand, the anti-drug commercials play to those negative consequences.
The makers of commercials play on your emotions, but there is one emotion that they hope you don’t experience until it is too late: buyer’s remorse. That is the feeling, usually after making a large purchase or committing to a significant undertaking (like marriage), when you wonder if you did the right thing. Buyer’s remorse kicks in when the high that the commercials want you to see has faded. But even buyer’s remorse will go away, often in less than a week. Emotions are like a roller coaster; they are constantly rising or falling.
The Israelites are an example of the instability of emotions. When Moses first went down to Egypt and confronted the Pharaoh it resulted in the taskmasters increasing the workload. The Israelites hit a low point, complaining against Moses. A couple of years later, after seeing (and being partially spared from) the plagues, those same Israelites were ready to follow Moses eagerly into the unknown. A week or so later, they want to throw Moses to the Egyptians for leading them to certain destruction at the Red Sea. But the next day they are singing a new song, literally. Over the next fifty days they complain, until they get to Sinai and hear God. Then they are promising to obey and hear. Forty days later they have given Moses up for dead and convinced Aaron to build a golden calf. After a year at Sinai they are ready to move on, but within days they are complaining about the lack of food. It is no wonder Moses was ready to quit.
We like to blame Israel, but forget that we are just like them. The emotional peak of a Christian’s life is when he/she is immersed for forgiveness of sins. In the book of Acts, and ever since, the people came out of the water rejoicing. Of those thousands on and after Pentecost, how many stayed on that emotional high when the persecution at the hands of the Jews arose? Experience would say that a number of them renounced Christ rather than suffering pain. Even those that continue to follow the Messiah never reach that plateau again. And yet we seek it.
Perhaps that is why youth rallies and gospel meetings are so popular. They provide an emotional rush. In the average congregation some can be seen distracted by other things during the prayers and singing. But when it is time for summer camp, a youth rally, or a gospel meeting, respondents seem to come out of the woodwork. The interesting thing is that many of those people are the same ones who made a similar response at the previous event, but were bored with the weekly assembly. Events like these are good if even one person is saved. The problem is that most of them play primarily on the emotions of the participants. And what they get are imitators of the Israelites, going from high to low within a matter of days.