THE SNARE OF SENTIMENTALITY

by Jeannette Haley

One of the greatest problems within Christendom today is sentimentality. It comes through many avenues and forms, but what it all boils down to is pseudo-spirituality that clouds truth and distorts reality.

What is the definition of sentimental? According to Webster’s, it means: emotional idealism; resulting from feeling rather than reason or thought; having an excess or affectation of sentiment or sensibility. Therefore, to base one’s perspective or way of thinking, reasoning and conclusions on sentimentality is folly and idolatry. The reason it is idolatrous is because the emotion of sentimentality is established as the standard or measurement of truth by which all other beliefs, conclusions and actions (if any) proceed.

Sentimentality is a form of an emotional drug that dulls the senses to the cutting edge of true spirituality. It tantalizes the emotional make-up much like an aromatic perfume can give a person a heady feeling. In the end, it leaves one with the illusion of being spiritually on top of it, and right with God in a vague sort of way. In other words, sentimentality redefines what the Bible teaches about such important subjects as sin, salvation, sanctification, regeneration, and who God is according to His attributes and nature.

Sentimentality can actually become a sick substitute for genuine Christian kindness and gentleness. It’s easy to become sentimental when reading touching stories (that usually circulate via email) or when exposed to the needs of those less fortunate. Even fleeting sentimentality can be so overpowering that it deludes us into believing that we must, after all, be wonderful people, full of love and kindness. The truth is, however, sentimentality serves as nothing more than the fermentation for the sins of slackness, complacency, laziness, and self-love (pride.) In other words, it’s all feelings, all imagination, all emotional hype (usually incessant verbiage about God’s love) with no life-changing or life-producing action.

We have become a sin-sick society for more reasons than space here permits for an overview on the subject. And, over all of this barbaric mess is the insidious and subtle thin veneer of sentimentality. We are sentimental about everything from our own sad, sorry selves, to our pathetic relatives (usually those not living nearby, and/or our ancestors) to the plights of Hollywood actors, to tear-jerking fiction movies and soap operas, to our heaps and piles of junk we collect, to our Nation (the “only” one that God “loves,” by the way) to imaginary and over-dramatized events that happened in our long-ago past.

Once sentimentality deludes us about what we really are, it can take root and spread into every area of our lives. What follows is that sentimentality begins to cloud the issues of life until we are no longer able to exercise spiritual discernment, or be able to distinguish the holy from the profane. After all, sentimentality feeds our pride and causes us to feel noble. Thus, tolerance and even compromise on our part are acceptable. And, sentimentalism even allows us to feel superior to those “less intelligent,” and often irritating people who still maintain the lines of righteousness according to Spirit and Truth.

Sentimentality eventually sets us up to be the judge of what is right and what is wrong, according to one’s sentimental view of God. Of course, sentimentality always sees God in shades of pastel—you know, always smiling, always pleased with and hovering over His “dear, sweet, little children,” and always happy with every little thing they do, regardless of how insipid, vain and meaningless it is.

Sentimentality is a thief that robs a person of God’s truth, God’s reality, God’s perspective (including His righteous judgments), and God’s will for a person’s life. Sentimentality robs a person of time, energy and resources. Just think about how many areas of our lives are influenced by sentiment! Sentimentality robs us of sound judgment in the areas of marriage, children and career. It even influences the way we spend our money.

Sentimentality is antichrist in nature because it is a substitute for the love of God as revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Sentimentality assures sinners (like you and me) that there is no need for genuine brokenness and repentance at the foot of the cross because, after all, we are so sentimentalabout the things of God. We’re not only sentimental, we even are sympathetic (emphasis on pathetic.) The danger is that many a misguided Christian, fueled by sentiment and sympathy has launched him or herself off into missionary work only to end up disillusioned, depressed and defeated.

It is along this line of the pitfalls of human sympathy that Oswald Chambers wrote, “A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ as He was sent by God. The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus. The source of our inspiration in work for God is behind, not before. The tendency to-day is to put the inspiration ahead, to sweep everything in front of us and bring it all out to our conception of success. In the New Testament the inspiration is put behind us, the Lord Jesus. The ideal is to be true to Him, to carry out His enterprises.

Personal attachment to the Lord Jesus and His point of view is the one thing that must not be overlooked. In missionary enterprise the great danger is that God’s call is effaced by the needs of the people until human sympathy absolutely overwhelms the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, the conditions so perplexing, that every power of mind falters and fails. We forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary enterprise is not first the elevation of the people, nor the education of the people, nor their needs; but first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ—‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.’

When looking back on the lives of men and women of God the tendency is to say—what wonderfully astute wisdom they had! How perfectly they understood all God wanted! The astute mind behind is the Mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God’s wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God.” (My Utmost for His Highest, pg. 300.)

I do believe that one of the reasons God allows severe persecution to come upon the Church at different times is because when persecution hits, sentimentality splits. There is no bedrock of reality in emotional idealism; therefore, it cannot stand in the face of adversity. There is nothing sentimental about the Word of God. Jesus was far from sentimental in every word he ever spoke. Consider these statements of His: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” Matthew10:34-39.

Jesus’ words have always been a two-edged sword, distinctly dividing such things as light from darkness, truth from error, reality from delusion, foolishness from wisdom, godliness from ungodliness, purity from perversion, flesh from spirit, and life from death. Sentimentality, on the other hand, blurs the distinctions between these areas and creates its own euphoric atmosphere where everything is positive, inoffensive, lovely, harmless, and non-threatening. In other words, sentimentalism gives a person a false sense of spirituality that makes him or her feel good about God, life and self.

The Bible warns us that the master deceiver, Satan, comes disguised as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14. By using the weapon of emotional idealism in the Garden of Eden Satan was able to deceive Eve. (See Genesis 3:4-5.) Likewise, in the wilderness temptation of Christ, one can detect a thread of “spiritual sentimentalism” woven throughout his discourse with Jesus. I am convinced that the floodtide of sentimentalism sweeping through the Christian realm today is just as insidious and dangerous to the Body of Christ as the heretical New Age Positive Confession, Manifest Sons of God, Latter Rain, Dominionist, Restoration, Kingdom Now, New Thing, etc., militant movements because the common denominator of all of them is that they present “another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel.” (See 2 Corinthians 11:3-4.) Satan doesn’t care which trap people fall into, just so long as they do fall! One snare is just as deadly as another in the end.

The question is why people gravitate to this mushy, unrealistic, sentimental façade of “Christianity?” Why do they prefer this “sweet Jesus” (as one TBN personality calls Him), rather than the robust Son of God the Bible portrays? In other words, why are they so much in love with their own perception of Jesus, instead of the real one? I believe the answer to this is pride, anger, hatred, and resentment that results in rejection and rebellion towards the God of the Bible and His claims. It may be ignored, obscured, hidden, or denied under a blanket of religious sentimentalism, but it is there nonetheless. God is not deceived with such wickedness.

How can such an individual be called to personal accountability and challenged with bottom-line truth if he or she is continually talking about the love of God? How can a genuine, born-again believer break through this wall of religious sentimentality without coming under attack? Sadly, such individuals who refuse to give up their sentimentalism and “land” have no fear of God, which results in godly wisdom. The reason is because they do not possess the knowledge of the God of the Bible. Such are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 3:7.

All of this relates back to receiving a love for the truth. But, in order to receive a love for the truth, a person must first be willing to humble himself or herself before God in brokenness and repentance. In other words, rather than leaning upon his or her own understanding, and so-called wisdom, seek after God for Who He is, and then ask Him for His perspective. People who are full of pride, self-righteousness and rebellion refuse to bow before God and admit that there is no good thing in them—that they are wretched sinners who need a Savior. Therefore, the smokescreen of sentimentalism provides a way for such individuals to blend into the Christian scene, even though they operate with a very different spirit.

Spiritual sentimentalism cannot, must not, be tolerated in our own individual lives or in the Body of Christ. There is nothing sentimental about our old sinful nature or the great price that was paid to redeem us from it. Once sentimentalism gets a foothold, it insidiously begins to redefine who God is, who Jesus is, what sin is, what salvation is, the reality of the coming judgment, hell, and basically real Christianity itself. It replaces the foundations of the Church that were established by the early Apostles. Jesus Christ is building His Church based on who He is in reality, and upon the Gospel, which is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.) Any teaching or belief concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ that differs in any way, be it ever so slightly, is “another gospel.” It is antichrist. It is idolatrous. It is satanic. The Apostle Paul wrote concerning such, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed,” Galatians 1:8-9.

     Finally, do you have a relationship with the resurrected Christ, the real Jesus of the Bible? If so, praise the Lord! Maybe someone reading this doesn’t have a relationship with Him at all. You need to know that He wants to have that relationship with you. Seek His face now, and let Him reveal Himself to you in Spirit and in Truth. I pray that He will become a living reality to you. To others, I ask this: Is Jesus Christ the Lord of lords, the King of kings, and the Alpha and the Omega? Or is your “Jesus” made up of fantasies and ideas that make you feel good, but bring no real conviction, no lasting solutions to the unresolved issues in your life? Maybe you have surrounded yourself with a bunch of cutsie “Jesus junk” that leaves you feeling alone and unfulfilled because there is no substance to it. The time has come to make a decision—which Jesus will you serve—the sentimental “Jesus” or the real Jesus?

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come.
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”Revelation 22:17.