The God Who Has Feelings

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Is there anything about the God who is worshiped by Jews and Christians that is different from other notions of God available on the global religious smorgasbord?
The answer is yes.  There are a number of things that are uniquely attributed to Yahweh, the Father of Jesus.   
Perhaps the most startling claim is that God has feelings. 
This goes against the grain of all the other major religions, not to mention both ancient and contemporary philosophers.  Muslims insist that Allah’s perfection is incompatible with transient emotional states.  Hindus, Buddhists, and Taoists imagine the Ultimate Being (if they even conceive of one) to be impersonal, and thus incapable of feelings.  The so-called God of the Philosophers, embraced as a necessary principle by thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, was assumed to be utterly disinterested in trivial realities like love, anger, and compassion.  The Deists of the Enlightenment suggested that an all-powerful Cosmic Force apparently got the universe going – it was a bit like winding up a clock – but then permanently left the scene.  We cannot touch the heart of such a God, and he will certainly never touch ours.
The texts of both the Old and New Testament are stunningly different.
God reasons.  God feels.  God cares
This is dramatically true with regard to Jesus, whom Christians claim to be “God with skin on” – a living representation of his Father in heaven. 
Two unusual Greek verbs stand out.  The first is splagkhnizomai, which is often translated into English as “having compassion.”  But it means so much more than that.  Its root is the Greek word for small intestines, or “guts,” which were widely assumed to be the seat of human emotions.  It denotes a visceral reaction – something that makes you clutch at your stomach, perhaps with a twinge of outrage. 
The word isn’t used very often in the Bible.  But wherever it appears, it definitely leaves a mark.
In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus says that the waiting father (who represents God) has a gut reaction when he sees his lost boy approaching – he runs and throws his arms around him.  In another parable, the good Samaritan who comes upon the mugged traveler feels a visceral surge of compassion and stops to help him.
When Jesus sees the restless crowd “like sheep without a shepherd,” his heart goes out to them (Matthew 9:36).  He then provides both a literal and spiritual feast.  His “guts” are moved to compassion when he sees a widow who has lost her only son, hears two blind men crying out for mercy, and is approached by a leper whose disfiguring disease has left him nowhere else to turn.
In each of these dire circumstances, we see God’s Messiah stirred to do something.  He is not neutral.  He doesn’t remain on the sidelines.  This is a God who rolls up his sleeves and goes to work.
The second Greek verb is even more dramatic.  It is embrimaomai, which is usually translated “deeply moved.”  It appears twice in the John 11 account of Jesus’ visit to the tomb of his friend Lazarus.
Most of us know “Jesus wept,” one of the shortest verses in the Bible (John 11:35).  But as author and theologian Os Guinness points out, sorrowful weeping doesn’t begin to exhaust the description of what Jesus is experiencing in this cemetery.  Embrimaomai is the verb used in John 11:38 to describe his feelings as he approaches the tomb.  Its root meaning is to “snort in spirit.”  The ancient writer Aeschylus famously used this verb to describe Greek stallions – war horses – just before battle.  They pawed the ground, reared on their hind legs, and snorted before they charged towards the enemy. 
Jesus likewise displays a surge of anger as he approaches the enemy.  What enemy? 
He is coming face to face with Death. 
Guinness writes, “Entering his Father’s world as the Son of God, he found not order, beauty, harmony, and fulfillment, but fractured disorder, raw ugliness, complete disarray – everywhere the abortion of God’s original plan.  Standing at the graveside, he came face to face with a death that symbolized and summarized the accumulation of evil, pain, sorrow, suffering, injustice, cruelty, and despair.”
Crying real tears and feeling heartfelt outrage, Jesus – who is Immanuel, God With Us – declares that Death’s days are numbered.  “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  And then he provides a preview of coming attractions by raising Lazarus from the grave. 
The God embodied by Jesus, alone on the world stage, feels the world’s pain.  And then he actually does something about it. 
But there’s more.
God is also the only wounded God.  Which means, included in the remarkable bandwidth of divine feelings, there is empathy.  God himself has been there. 
You may be quite aware that you have a tough stretch of days ahead of you.  Or it may be that what you hope is about to be a joyful weekend is going to bring sorrow and frustration instead.
Either way, you can know this:  You won’t be going it alone.
And the God who genuinely feels your pain will be helping you carry it.