We all know it’s best to think before we speak. When faced with a situation where our reactions could get the best of us, we know that the smart thing to do is to take a few moments to calm down before we overreact and make things worse for ourselves. But what if I told you that our reactions run much deeper than our outward responses? And truth be told, God is much more concerned about our reactions than He is about our responses.
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A response requires that we think before we act. It’s a decision we make not based on emotions or feelings, but rather what is best for the situation. It’s thought out and deliberate.
On the other hand, a reaction is immediate. While we can control our responses, we can’t necessarily control our reactions. For example, when someone says something to hurt our feelings, we react inwardly by feeling hurt, offended, and upset. But we can choose to respond outwardly by walking away and not retaliating.
Learning how to respond and not react can be a life-long process. It’s hard not to react when life throws us curve balls. But the truth is that our inward reactions have a way of revealing what’s really going on inside our hearts. And since God is in the business of changing hearts, He’s also in the business of changing our reactions.
Responses stem from the mind, while reactions stem from the heart.
When we surrender our hearts to the Father, He is faithful to transform us from the inside out.
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26
As children of God, we not only have a new “heart of flesh,” but we also have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. He is constantly empowering us, training us, and leading us towards righteous living. And as we grow closer to Jesus and mature in our faith, the more our reactions begin to change.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to for our reactions to match the heart of our Father.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. – Romans 6:17-18 (NIV, emphasis added)
In the Old Testament, the people of God had the Law. Their goal was to outwardly obey to the best of their ability – to respond to temptations with the right choices. But Jesus changed the game when He went after our hearts.
While obeying the Law was all about our outward responses, Jesus offered us something better – transformed hearts that naturally produce godly reactions.
Our immediate reactions speak volumes about the condition of our hearts – are we living by the Spirit or by the flesh?
The more we choose to live by the Spirit, the more like Jesus we become.
We react to temptation with a hatred for sin.
We react to stress and chaos with His peace.
We react to hurt and offense with compassion and a desire to pray for our enemies.
We react to difficulties and trials with joy knowing that God’s strength will sustain us.
The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. – Luke 6:45
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.