"...Bretheren, we ought to obey God rather than men..." Acts 5:29, KJV
We are "ethical beings." In other words, God has given us the freedom to choose how we will think, make decisions and execute those decisions. However, powerful forces play a role in our decision making process.
In his work, The Responsible Self, ethicist H. Richard Niebuhr asserts that we all choose between being "responders or reactors." A responder carefully considers a matter and then controls and determines how he or she will behave based upon their own analysis of the matter. A reactor, conversely, allows the reactions, opinions, attitudes and behaviors of others to dictate or greatly influence how they themselves choose to behave.
We all have experienced this dilemma. The pain of rejection, no matter how subtle can mean the difference between us speaking truth in love, or remaining silent and going along with the crowd. The fear of alienation, non-acceptance, and being ostracized can mean the difference between us asking questions, raising an issue, confronting a problem or standing up when others are sitting down.
We instinctively understand that truth, no matter how respectfully and gently spoken can at times get you black balled, kicked out of clubs, circles and cliques and labeled a trouble maker. Therefore, we succumb to the power and influence of both acceptance and rejection. Through out scripture, God called upon men and women to speak truth to power irrespective of the reactions of the hearers.
Prophets are rarely popular (at least while they are still living!). Frequently we miss the power and meaning of their words until after God has removed them from our midst, or we experience the painful consequences of own own resistance to their message. If we are honest, we all vacillate between being reactors and responders. We wrestle to determine the times and the seasons - is it a time to speak or a time to be silent? Through prayer and wisdom, we must determine if our answer to that all important question is being influenced by our conviction that The Lord is guiding our action (or inaction) or is the fear of rejection as well as our desire for acceptance motivating our choices.
May our reverential fear of God, our love for fellow human beings and our determination to follow the more excellent way empower us to behave as the Holy Spirit dictates. Through prayer and faith, may we have the courage to be responders and not reactors.
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Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,