My eldest believes that she should only obey when she feels like doing so.
I am quick to disabuse her of this idea.
The incident does, however, cause me to begin mulling over the connection between actions and emotions, between behavior and the heart.
Is there a reason why we are supposed to obey, to do what is right, even when we don't feel like it? Isn't that hypocritical?
"I shouldn't read the Bible if I'm only doing it because I have to."
"I shouldn't go visit Maria at the nursing home because my heart isn't in the right place."
Which comes first? The physical act or the heart change?
A.J. Jacobs is a humorist who writes books about the human experiments he conducts. In several of his books, he mentions the connection between his actions and his emotions.
In The Year of Living Biblically, he is focusing on Ephesians 4.29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths." when he writes this:
The weird thing is, I think my G-rated language is making me a less angry person. Because here's the way it works: I'll get to the subway platform just as the downtown train is pulling away, and I'll start to say the F-word. I'll remember to censor myself. So I'll turn it into "fudge" at the last second. When I hear myself say "fudge" out loud, it sounds so folksy, so Jimmy Stewart-ish and amusingly dorky, that I can't help but smile. My anger recedes. Once again, behavior shapes emotions.
In My Life as an Experiment, he says this:
Historically, the handshake was seen as a democratic gesture...But nowadays, I think the bow has more benefits. Though it may seem pretentious, it's actually deeply humbling. Just lowering yourself before someone - the universal symbol of modesty - makes you feel more respectful. Behavior shapes your thoughts.Is it odd that I'm finding wisdom in a comedian?
Yet God did create us with physical bodies, and our physical condition, whether health or posture, does seem to affect our emotions.
If a comedian isn't authoritative enough, how about Aristotle?
Aristotle also believed that your actions shape your heart:
Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way...you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.He also said:
We are what we repeatedly do.So perhaps, after all, it is not hypocritical to do right things when our hearts are rebelling.
Perhaps, instead, this is how we train our hearts to desire right things.
Perhaps, too, paying attention to our physical bodies, such as our posture while praying, can help us to keep our hearts focused.
And since finding wisdom in a comedian and in an ancient philosopher should never be enough for us, God also gives us instructions for our physical bodies in order to help our hearts become truly His:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. ~ Deuteronomy 6.6-9Which commandments had God just given them?
Ah. The most important of all.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. ~ Deuteronomy 6.5
Image credits: A.J. Jacobs from The Year of Living Biblically; cropped from The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio