’Having put on the breastplate of righteousness’, Eph. 6. 14.
Our world is changing at an incredible speed. Advancements in technology are a blur. And yet, even though it’s all happening so fast, some things will never change about us. That’s what Shigetaka Kurita found out in the late 1990s when he created 176 simple little symbols to express emotion on a computer screen. Little did he know that he was paving the way for the emoji. He could not have imagined that his invention would eventually become an entire smartphone keyboard. It’s a language we all understand.
Mr. Kurita didn’t actually create language. It already existed in the human heart. But he gave our text-crazy culture a way to express it. It’s the language of ‘emotion’ and it runs deep inside us. We start communicating with emotion from the moment we’re born. The existence of the emoji proves that we cannot communicate by merely exchanging information. True human connection can only happen on an emotional level.
Our Creator made us emotional beings and there’s everything right with that. But what is wrong – with our culture and with our hearts – is the place we give to emotions. In the animated film, Inside Out, emotions are depicted as being in the central headquarters of the mind. We live in a culture where emotions rule. The message is clear, the pathway to true fulfilment is in following your feelings wherever they may lead.
Our advanced culture is remarkably close to the mindset that existed in first-century Ephesus. Paul knew that one of the devil’s cruel schemes is to hit us where we are most vulnerable. For a Roman soldier, the upper torso needed the most protection. It was an easy target, and also a deadly one. It's no different for the Christian warrior. If Satan can wound us in our deepest feelings and desires, he will do serious damage.
Our emotions are vital to the health of our soul. It’s through them that we truly connect with God and others in relationships. Apart from them, we are lonely and isolated. They also play a major role in understanding personal guilt. We don’t just ‘know’ we are guilty, but we ‘feel’ our guilt. Emotions are a powerful voice but not necessarily true. The enemy does all he can to confuse us, and when we fall into temptation, he shames us into isolation.
When we’ve been hurt or abused, we withdraw from others and build walls around our heart in our shame. But our self-protection only makes our condition worse. If we are going to follow Christ, we may have our hearts broken or hurt, but Paul says we are to ‘be strong in the Lord’ and not in ourselves. It is God alone we need to trust. Paul describes His protection for our hearts as ‘righteousness’. He wasn’t referring to a ‘thing’ but to a person, Jesus Christ. He is the defender of hearts that have been deeply wounded by sin in a broken world.
If only we could write the Old Testament story of Ruth in emojis. The language of emotion is deeply embedded into the narrative. Ruth’s heart could not have been more vulnerable than ‘in the days of the Judges’ when women were abused and discarded. But she met a man who stands out in the moral darkness. Eventually, she lays herself at his feet in the dark of night – totally vulnerable and unprotected – and she seeks protection in the righteous strength of Boaz.
Regardless of who has taken advantage of us, or how far we have fallen, we are declared ‘righteous’ in our Redeemer. No matter how guilty we feel, ‘Jesus Christ the righteous’ stands and pleads our cause by His sacrifice. We may feel like giving up in our battle against sin, but the Lord will never give up His work producing righteousness in our lives. He knows our deepest secrets and He gave His own life to free us from shame and guilt.
It’s time we dropped our efforts to self-protect. Let’s live in the freedom of the righteousness God gives us in Christ. Just like the woman who found her righteousness in Him and said, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did', John 4. 29 NKJV.