This series began by noting how we live in the Age of Feeling and Authenticity. We have come to see how Jesus can save us from it, how he can restore just sentiments like outrage, compassion, and joy. This leaves us with two hanging questions: First, how do we actually come to feel just sentiments the way Jesus did? Second, why Jesus’ feelings? Can’t we learn just sentiments from the emotional lives of Gandhi, or Mother Theresa, or Rosa Parks? Or from that friendly janitor, that magnanimous co-worker, or that self-giving mother? Or perhaps even from Homer’s Ulysses, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Aragorn, or J.K. Rowling’s Harry? Aren’t there a billion admirable feelers, real and fictional, who show us what life can look like beyond the confines of the modern fact box and the postmodern feeling box?

The answers to the first question can be found in the answers to the second. The short answer to the second question is yes, of course, there are volumes upon volumes of just sentiments that can be learned from all kinds of people in all kinds of times and places. In history books we can be inspired by Sophie Scholl’s defiant courage against the Third Reich. In hardbacks and on the big screen we can learn from the priest’s candlestick-bestowing mercy on Jean Valjean. In daily life there are just sentiments to be learned all around us, if we’re looking for them—that waiter’s infinite patience, that toddler’s sense of wonder, that friend’s light-hearted ability to be un-phased by an insult.

This partially answers our first question too. How do we come to feel just sentiments? They are more effectively caught than taught. We come to feel them for ourselves when we intentionally surround ourselves with noble feelers. We can put ourselves in close proximity to the people in our daily lives who exude the affections we need more of. We can use history to transport us through time to interlock arms with the Selma marchers. Film and fiction can whisk us off to find courage and compassion through the wardrobe of Narnia, on the battlefields of Middle Earth, or in the halls of Hogwarts.

All of this can help us to feel more just sentiments. But there is much more to it, especially when Jesus is part of that emotional odyssey. A case could be made that all heroes, real or fictional, dramatic or mundane, relate to Jesus the way sunbeams relate to the sun. If we really think about it and trace Parks, or Potter, or that waitress’s just sentiments all the way back to their most radiant Source, we are led right back to Jesus. I believe that case could be made. But I’m after something even more exceptional here, that miraculous fourth thing hinted at earlier. Jesus not only opens us to a world bigger than the modern fact room; he not only breaks down the isolating walls of the postmodern feeling room; he not only leads us over the rubble to show us by example how to feel more justly.

He goes further. He reaches into our chests and creates just sentiments there. If he is indeed who he claimed to be, then Jesus has a direct, hands-on ability to electrify our affections in ways that no one else can. He has unique, unrestricted, intimate access to human hearts. In Francis Turretin’s words, his Spirit “glides into the inmost recesses of the soul, [and] reforms the heart itself, healing its depraved inclinations and prejudices.”[1] St. Augustine experienced it in an olive grove. C.S. Lewis experienced it in a motorcycle sidecar on his way to the zoo. Bob Dylan experienced it in an Arizona hotel room. Jonathan Edwards experienced it during a thunderstorm, on nature hikes, and in his bedroom.[2] I have experienced it myself (and I suspect many of my readers have too). Many can inspire just sentiments, he can infuse them in us. Many can challenge us from the outside in; Jesus can change us from the inside out.

This series began by pointing out the strangeness of our Age of Feeling and Authenticity. “Authenticity” has come to mean staying true to your own feelings, whatever they may be. But isn’t it more authentic to acknowledge that our feelings are not the unquestionable and sacred standard, to acknowledge that we very often get angry at the wrong things, love some things too much and others too little, enjoy some of the wrong things, fail to be moved like we should for hurting people around us? Isn’t it more authentic to acknowledge how broken our hearts really are and that we can’t fix ourselves to feel what we ought to feel? Arrogance says “all my feelings are right.” Authenticity says “I need a Heart Surgeon.”

Jesus, teach us to feel the way you feel. Do your heart surgery. Go deep and remove unjust sentiments. Heal the torn parts, thaw the frozen parts, and spark new life into the dead parts. Take your scalpel to our self-centered sentiments. Fill us with the kind of love that rages at the outrageous, that breaks for broken people, that forgives the unforgivable. Make our guts quick to twist at suffering and our hands quick to relieve it. Give us something of your peace, your courage, and your fearlessness. Connect us to you and the Father as our nonstop flow of satisfaction and joy. Take our mangled hearts and make them just, like yours. Amen.  


[1] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, * Vol. 2, 523.

[2] Edwards recounts in his “Personal Narrative”: “Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder… but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God… Another Saturday night, (January 1739) I had such a sense, how sweet and blessed a thing it was to walk in the way of duty… that it caused me to break forth into a kind of loud weeping, which held me some time, so that I was forced to shut myself up, and fasten the doors. I could not but, as it were, cry out, "How happy are they which do that which is right in the sight of God! They are blessed indeed, they are the happy ones!"