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Choosing to Respond, Instead of Reacting

Paying attention to a lot of news and media in our society one will see a lot of reactions to ideas, events, and movements as well as people’s perceptions of them. Sometimes the church and Christians react as well, likely in ways similar to the larger society. On our better days we respond instead of reacting. There is a marked difference between a reaction and a response. I would suggest that a response is often helpful and needed, whereas a reaction is less so. A reaction likely is motivated by feelings, gut reactions, and implicit biases. A reaction is likely to be quick to follow the words or actions that inspired it, giving little time to process what has been done or said. Because of its origins a reaction may cause harm or offense to those who hear/receive it, even if no harm or offense is intended. 

To respond allows space for discernment of what God would have of us in light of what has been said/done. It means that a response, unlike a reaction, is not dictated by the idea/event or our biases and feelings, but rather by the will of God and the faith, hope, and love we have as Christians. To respond instead of react reduces the likelihood (but doesn’t eliminate it) that no unintentional harm or offense will come about. 

In a fast paced, quick to act and slow to think, society I believe it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to respond instead of react, especially regarding hot button issues, divisive politics, and opinion forward news cycles. When we pause long enough after hearing or seeing something that might set us off to reflect on how our faith in Jesus calls us to act, what our hope in Jesus has to say, and how best to love those who will hear/see our response we allow time for the Holy Spirit to guide us instead of our feelings, gut reactions, and implicit biases. 

We are called in all situations to love our neighbors, including enemies, to speak the truth, to seek justice and peace, and to witness to the hope and joy we have in Jesus Christ. When we react to words said and actions taken it becomes hard for us to live into our calling as Christians. When we choose instead to take a breath, listen for the Holy Spirit, and respond we allow God to take the center stage and not us, our opinions, or our gut reactions. By learning to respond we give ourselves and others the space to recognize the presence of God in our midst and the image of God in each other. This is a vital antidote to our culture, which often pays lip service to God at best and at worst leaves God out of the picture entirely. 

Jesus links the love of God and the love of neighbor, the two are so intertwined it is difficult to do one without doing the other. In learning to respond in moments of tension, division, and heated argument we take a step towards living in love as Christ has loved us and commanded us to follow. 

Blessings and deep breaths as we move through this year’s election cycles and the heated words, opinions, and actions that come with it. May we all practice responding instead of reacting and in so doing show a glimmer of God’s Kingdom here and now. 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Brian

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