Stoicism Isn’t Commended by God

“Man of sorrows what a name for the Son of God who came …” These are words to a hymn of praise that we often sing during our worship assemblies. This song takes its lyrics from Isaiah 53:3. Jesus was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Christ was familiar with grief. He knew grief and sorrow rather well.

Paul said in Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Paul furthermore said in his farewell address to the Ephesians in Acts 20:19, “Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which come upon me through the plots of the Jews.” Farther down in Acts 20:37 it says, “And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoke …” Paul had spent three years laboring with these brethren. They developed an unshakeable bond rooted in the truth. It was a very emotional time to see Paul depart, and they didn’t seem to feel the need to remain stoic as their brother left. They wept aloud and embraced Paul. There was no doubt of their love for Paul.

If there are examples like these throughout Scripture, why do we believe that God commends a stoic attitude? I’m not familiar with any Scripture that says God supports and encourages us to be stoic, unemotional, and cold. I read that we are to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32). I could be wrong, and you’d be my brother or sister to correct me if I’m wrong.

I’m not sure where this attitude of stoicism in the church originated, but from my study of God’s Word, I don’t read of it being commended by God.

It’s noble to want to separate ourselves from the sensationalism and false emotionalism in the denominational world. Yet, if we allow that to cause us to grow cold and stoic, what have we done? Have we accomplished the will of God? I don’t think so.

Stoicism has some interesting concepts and some noble ideals such as perseverance, enduring hardships, etc. One of the main goals of stoicism, though, is not to show emotion and remain neutral during times of turmoil and grief.

Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. I read that His sweat became like great drops of blood in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). Jesus paved the way for how we are to think, feel, act, react, etc. (cp. 1 Peter 2:21). If Jesus can show the emotions of grief, sorrow, and joy, who am I to say it’s not commendable? Who am I to go a different direction from the Lord’s example?

On the other end of the spectrum, in Luke 10:20, the disciples were to rejoice because they knew they were saved. On a side note, a considerable number of religious people now rejoice and use that result to “prove” they’re saved. But people who heard the gospel in first century times responded to that call and then rejoiced (Acts 8:39; 16:34; cp. 2 Thessalonians 2:14). We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord” and “Rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). Instead of stoicism, I’m supposed to be a joyful Christian.

Don’t allow American clichés like “A real man never shows emotion” to cloud our judgment. We’re followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Follow the example of our Lord and put away worldly practices and traditions from His church.

Adapted from Jordan Lawson

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