Christians believe in a personal God who is intimately involved in our lives. This is a true and Biblical belief. But there are some extra-Biblical conclusions that have sometimes been drawn from this belief.
I can’t count the number of times a Christian has said to me that “they have a peace” about a certain decision and therefore plan to move forward. Sometimes they make this decision despite obvious signs that their decision is unwise and not in conformity with the guidance of Scripture. In these cases, a person tends to simply slap a kind of divine mandate on top of what they want to do anyway. When friends or family members try to refute their decision, they simply reply that there is to be no argument because “God told them” or “God gave them a peace.”
One example of this kind of mindset can be found on popular Pentecostal writer and speaker Joyce Meyer’s website. To Meyer’s credit, she does mention the importance of using God’s Word as we make our decisions. She also encourages consulting wise counselors. But her final determinant of decisions seems to be inner feelings. She relies heavily on inner impressions as one decides how God is leading them. Here’s some quotations from her article:
I encourage you to let the peace in your heart decide with finality every question that arises in your mind….
If you feel something strongly in your heart, you’ve prayed about it and it goes along with Scripture, then follow your heart. If you feel led to make a decision that others don’t like, you shouldn’t have to give an unreasonable amount of explanation for what you feel led to do….
What do you think God is saying to you? What are yousensing [sic] from God? Ultimately, you need to take responsibility for making the decision that brings peace to your heart. If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. But being true to what God has put on your heart is the key to your happiness.
[Quick aside: I’m not sure why Meyer seems to think we need to find the “key to our happiness.” I don’t see that concept in the Bible. Contentment and joy, sure, but finding one’s personal happiness is not a Biblical concept. Rather, it smacks of self-centeredness.]
Meyer seems to draw her view from Colossians 3:15 (NIV):
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
There is another passage that is often used to support this “decision-making by following the peace in your heart” viewpoint:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.–Philippians 4:6-7
Do these passages tell us to “follow the peace,” no matter what counsel we receive from others? No matter what wisdom would tell us to do? Do they tell us to simply rely on an inner emotional feeling to tell us what we should do? Do they require us to take a leap of faith based on our feelings?
I would contend that they do not say this at all! The key to understanding this is understanding what the word for peace here, ereine in Greek, means. This is a word that is way more active and concrete and relational than we often consider it to be. It concerns active peace between warring parties or the absence of destructive conflict. It conveys the active idea of reconciliation, between God and humans, and between humans with each other. Inasmuch as it is relevant to emotions, it suggests the following, according to Strong’s:
the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
This is not emotional peace because you are making the right decision. It is emotional peace that comes as the result of having reconciliation with God. This emotional peace then accompanies you throughout all the ups and downs of life. It certainly can enable you to make decisions without great fear because you know that in God you will ultimately be ok. But it is not license to make unwise decisions because your feelings tell you it’s ok.
How do we know this? Because although we have new life in Christ, we are still fallible human beings who await our full redemption at a later date. We cannot rely on our feelings to help us make decisions because our feelings can steer us horribly, horribly wrong. Rather, we should suspect our feelings as potentially leading us awry. (Please note that I am not saying our feelings do not matter, but rather that they should not be the ultimate determinant of our decisions.)
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?–Jeremiah 17:9
Following our feelings is the wrong way to make decisions. And the Bible does not tell us to do so.
In my next post, I’ll talk more about how following Christ makes us feel emotionally uncomfortable at times. And I’ll discuss more about how Christians can make good decisions.
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