Terry R. Baughman
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:14–16 NIV).
Isaac Newton reportedly learned a lot by observing nature and from sitting under apple trees. The famous legend of an apple falling on his head led to his understanding of gravity and the discovery of other laws of motion in physics. Regardless if the stories of these origins are true, his principles have been studied, tested, and verified. Newton’s third law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
In real life experiences we may come to confirm and agree with Newton’s third law of motion. This is not only true of physics but often in human interaction. When someone acts another responds. Sometimes just a word, a look, or an offensive action produces a string of negative reactions, which in turn causes others to respond or react. Road rage incidents, political protests, and a rude neighbor’s curse are all events that will produce reciprocation.
Consider the difference in the two actions: Response or Reaction. Though the difference my seem subtle it is significant. A response recognizes the offense or the action, but is a more measured and deliberate answer to the event. On the other hand a reaction tends to be a more immediate knee jerk reprisal.
Many events will happen in life that call for a reply. We can make the choice to respond rather than react. When we respond our answer can be a more methodical, less emotional, and appropriate answer to the offense. If we are prone to react we will find ourselves more retaliatory, producing a caustic retort further escalating the conflict. A response is often necessary; a reaction seldom is.
When we are confronted with difficult situations we can respond with active faith or we can react in frustration. When our convictions are shamed and our best intentions are misjudged or rejected, the hurt may tempt us to react in anger with a desire to strike back in vindication.
Scripture teaches us to “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,” and to respond, “with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJ). A proper response is given with our emotions in check when the answer is spoken respectfully. There are always those who seek to identify our hot buttons just to see if they can set us off, provoking an angry reaction. Then they turn around and question our Christianity and rebuke our display of emotion.
In this Strategy for Success may we find grace to always response with love and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us how to properly respond in the Sermon on the Mount. He pronounced blessings to those who respond in His way. In the conclusion of the Beatitudes Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12). Rather than to react, we are encouraged to rejoice!
Paul wrote, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat” (1 Corinthians 4:12–13). When we understand the bigger picture of persecution, the spiritual attacks of the enemy, we can respond in peace knowing that God’s righteousness upon us is often the target of the provocation.
Another part of the armor of God will help us wage the war with success. Put on the helmet of Salvation. (See Ephesians 6:17.) Guard your heart. Keep your mind in peace. Isaiah said, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Unfortunately, Newton’s third law of motion doesn’t work in interpersonal relationships. The action is not always equal or opposite. Sometimes the reaction is unreasonable, the retort greater than the offense. However, we still have the choice; we can respond with the grace of Christ and resist the temptation to react in anger. Respond, don’t react!
“For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”