When Feelings Trump the Truth
Go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel . . . Amos 7:12-13
I must admit that sometimes, I get irritated in ways that are just ridiculous. When I’m in a hurry and get stopped by a train, I imagine the engineer is purposefully trying to wreck my schedule. When several patients come into the clinic at closing time, keeping me late, I just know they’re conspiring together to prevent me from getting home. I know these feelings are absurd, but still, my irritation is real to me, even if it has no basis in reality.
How I feel or what I prefer, overrules reason all the time. I know how to eat right. I just feel like eating junk food. I know I should love my neighbor, but I prefer to live for me. Listening to what is right often means sacrificing my preferences, so, I turn a deaf ear and do as I please.
This is the story of Amos in today’s passage. As his people wandered, God told Amos to deliver a message of impending doom to the Israelites, who didn’t want to hear it. Repent or suffer the consequences! Amos was not the cause of the coming disaster. The Israelites were. Driven by their own preference though, they refused to listen to the truth and turned on Amos, silencing the voice of God.
I can’t pretend my feelings don’t exist, but they have led me wrong often enough, that I must be highly suspicious of them. When I’m irritated by the train, that feeling is real, but I can grow it by indulging in it, or I can interrogate it, recognizing the stupidity of it. When I want to use drugs, I can instinctively follow, or I can learn to recognize how destructive that appetite is and do whatever it takes to abandon it.
Blindly following our natural preferences, feelings, and appetites leads to slavery to ourselves. If we desire freedom, and if we want to abandon the misery of ourselves, we must learn to follow what is right over what we impulsively feel. Our feelings are not always wrong, but they certainly are no measure of right.