A September Note from Pastor Rich

Acting and Reacting

Mark Batterson, the best-selling author and pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, made a strong point while discussing his emotional response to a harsh email. He received a critical assessment of his sermon and ministry so he wanted to respond with vindicating octane. However, his self-awareness, coupled with input about the tragic circumstances of the sender, caused him to react redemptively. It is true that most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply or even react. Batterson made up his mind to understand and learn when he made this statement: “In my experience, it’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one… your reactions reveal what is really in your heart.” We generally focus on our actions, over which we have greater control, but the more accurate measure of our heart flows from our reactions to things we do not or cannot control.

Isn’t that what Jesus is attempting to communicate in the entire Sermon on the Mount? Isn’t that what we have been saying about moving our righteousness from the outward actions to the inward attitude? Our relationship with God and our relationship with people go together. Will Rogers said, “People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing!” When I am out of sorts with someone, I have difficulty approaching God. Our reactions to people determine how we come to God and the impact God is able to have on us.

As we read the Bible we know that the chief tragedy of sin is that it separates men from God, it breaks the relationship. The whole purpose of the sacrifice upon the altar was to restore that broken relationship. However, if one had a broken relationship with his brother, he could not hope to bring about a restored relationship with God until he first restored the relationship with his brother. You say, “Wait a minute Pastor, didn’t the meaning of the sacrifice lie in the fact that it atoned for sin, that it covered the guilt of the one presenting it?” The answer is “Yes!” However, sacrifice was never meant to excuse the necessity for restoration. To ask God to forgive us and not seek the necessary restoration is meaningless repentance.

This can be seen in Scripture. King David was a saved man who is in heaven today because he looked for the coming Messiah, yet he wrote of his daily relationship to God and of his sin, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) Samuel said to King Saul on the occasion of Saul’s first great disobedience to the Lord after he became king, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (I Samuel 15:22)

My grandmother always told me, “Put your brain into gear before you engage your mouth.” That is good advice and will help us with the acting rather than the reacting. Someone else said, “Before speaking, you should think about what you’re going to say for at least ten seconds.” Finally, it comes down to this: Before you speak: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? These are lessons I am learning, even at my age.

Serving Christ Together,
Pastor Rich