React vi- 1 to act in return or reciprocally 2 to act in opposition 3 to act in a reverse way; go back to a former condition, stage, etc.
Respond vi- 1 to answer or reply positively or favorably.
Then my mind went to the Cross, and I could hear my Savior say, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Convicted by the Holy Spirit and with great pain, I chose to seek God's way of resolving conflict, rather than my way. No one said dying was painless...and it's not...it's very painful. But that's what Jesus calls us to do: carry our cross daily, and following Him so we too, can die to the sin in our flesh and live free by the power of God's grace.
Jesus freed us from the temptation to give others only what they give us (good or bad). Through His life, death, resurrection and ascension we, who are in Christ, have been empowered by His indwelling Holy Spirit to give others what God has given us through His Son—grace, mercy, love and compassion.
We're no longer enslaved by the sin in our flesh to react to people and return what we've received from them. No, we now live in the freedom of God's grace and are able to respond to those who've done us good or evil, without favoritism or bitterness, but with the same wisdom from above (James 3:17-18) and the same mercy and grace we've received from Christ our Lord.
"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even [unrepentant] sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount."
God has taught me that I am never to react to people, but always respond to Him. What does that mean? It means when we've been hurt, or if we're annoyed or insulted by someone, we who are in Christ, have the freedom to do good rather than be captivated by evil (Rom 6:12-14, Heb 11:6).
I can either react, that is, reciprocate exactly what I was given by another to another, or I can respond, that is, give a favorable or positive return to God and His gift of Life through Jesus Christ. Am I going to return evil for evil (Rom 12:17, 21), or will I be a light in the darkness and respond to this person or circumstance based on my love and gratitude to God for all that He has given me in His Son?
The psalmist who wrote Psalm 116:12-14 perfectly expresses what our response should be:
"How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people."
You may be thinking, "This all sounds so spiritual and good, but what does this look like in real life? How can I actually do this?" Thankfully, God our Father remembers we are yet but dust (Ps 103:13-14) and made it pretty simple for us through Christ, who gave us these four practical and Holy Spirit empowered action items in Luke 6:27-28.
- LOVE: Like Jesus loves us, sacrificially and with great compassion (Philippians 2:3);
- DO GOOD : Do something that will benefit the person who hurt us, and not just something that makes us feel "holy" and good about ourselves (Gal 6:9-10);
- BLESS: Intentionally and actively seek opportunities to share kindness with those who can never earn or return it (Lk 14:12-14);
- PRAY: Forgive them and ask God to forgive them (just like Jesus did for us) and pray for their healing and reconciliation with the Lord (2 Cor 13:7-9), because their sin against God is far greater than their sin against us.
Does this mean God wants us to gloss over evils done against us and pretend they never existed? NO! God doesn't want His children to live in fantasy land. He wants His children to live in the reality of His love and truth. This means, God wants us to confront the issue with His agape love and forgive (work through, not just get over the problem).
So next time someone hurts you, don't behave like a victim and plot revenge, or pray that God punishes them. Instead, use it as an opportunity to say "thank You Jesus" for all He has done for you. Then, behave like a child of the Almighty who's been given freedom in Christ to good; empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24), rather than the destructive fruit of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21).
After all, our God is "kind to the ungrateful and the wicked." And who are the ungrateful and wicked? Well, in light of God's holiness...that would be all of us.
**Note: If you're in an abusive relationship of any kind (verbally, emotionally, spiritually or physically) with someone, steps 2 and 3 above (from Lk 6:27-28) must be applied from afar. God never commands His children to chase after someone who obviously hates God, disobeys His Word and therefore, abuses you because of Christ. Prayerfully seek a place of solace as you love, do good, bless and pray for your abuser.