Knee-Jerk Reactions

In the medical field a knee-jerk reflex is a sudden kicking movement of the lower leg in response to a sharp tap just below the kneecap. We also use this knee-jerk expression to describe someone’s response or reaction to a question or situation, often in a very predictable way or without thinking. A knee-jerk reaction is typically a quick reaction that does not allow you time to consider something carefully. 

While I could share an overflowing bucket full of illustrations and stories from my own life that would make you either laugh out loud or shift uncomfortably in your seat, I thought it would be more valuable to share some thoughts about what should be at the epicenter of our reactions.

I was recently reading Paul’s words to the church in Colossae. In chapter three he gives instruction to his brothers and sisters in Christ to have their hearts and minds set on things above, not on earthly things. He calls them (and us) to rid ourselves of things like anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. Each of these destructive “things” Paul describes can be a dangerously attached “spur” riding on the side of our reactive comments or actions. Be it un-intentional or otherwise, these “spurs” of destruction (a tool of the evil one) can have a powerful impact on the relationships we have with others. 

Paul offers us some strong counsel on how we as followers of Christ can work in our lives to help smooth the sharp points down on the spurs that can cause harm. He says: 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col. 3:12-14)

In Christ we have the power to overcome the fractured image of a once perfect reflection of our heavenly Father who created us. When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts and the perfect unity of love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience come together they are the means that help to condition (for better) our sometimes-hasty reactions. 

Knee jerk reactions are inevitable in life, they surface in our daily face-to-face interactions, through social media posts and other areas of life. We would do well to heed to Paul’s words in verse 17 of Colossians 3: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Today, it is my prayer for all of you that strive to live according to our Fathers will, that you will show a natural response of love and compassion in all your words and deeds with those around you.

High-Beam Headlights

Have you ever been driving at night and found your eyes momentarily blinded by the piercing stream of light from the high-beam headlights of an oncoming vehicle? Many of you have. What’s your first reaction? Do you give a quick courtesy flash of your lights back to the driver coming your way in hopes that they dim their lights and pass you by? Or, do you return fire with fire and burn your halogen bulbs at full candlepower until the other person gives in and relents to your stunning retaliation?

The apostle Paul has received word about a “high-beam” situation infiltrating the church in Corinth. Various groups within the church were beginning to “flash their lights at each other” over who they were following along with reports of sexual immortality, lawsuits and other troubling activities. Paul deals with the first issue of divisiveness before the others in chapters 1:20-4:21. He describes the problem in 1:12, “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another “I follow Cephas”, still another, “I follow Christ.” 

The opening of Paul’s letter “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people” was a call to unity where disarray was brewing. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you.” What was Paul’s plan? How in the midst of disagreement can the church come together in love for one another? 

Paul outlines four methods for us to “dim the lights” and foster an attitude and environment where unity can flourish. 

First and foremost, Paul instructs the people to focus on the cross of Christ. (1:18-2:5) Simply put, the Corinthians have lost sight of the cross, their “high-beam” focus on other leaders for power and authority has to be refocused, the need to return to the truth of the gospel message. It is not about them but all about Christ. 

Second, He speaks to the truth of spiritual wisdom. (2:6-16) Without the leading and guiding of the Spirit in all matters of faith in life as believers we will fail in our own weaknesses. He reminds us of God’s wisdom as revealed by the Spirit. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (2:10b)

Third, he speaks to the true equality of all believers. (3:1-23) Paul uses two metaphors, one of farmers in a field and another of construction workers building together. He stresses in verse 9 that we are “co-workers” (working together) in God’s service. 

Lastly, Paul speaks to the true nature of leadership. (4:1-21) Called by God, the leaders are his faithful servants; “This then is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” (4:1) In short, Paul highlights the truth that Christ is to be exalted over his chosen leaders (servants), while at the same time given the respect they deserve because of their calling. 

Having been momentarily “blinded” by the powerful lights of an oncoming car I will admit I’ve responded to the situation with both a quick courtesy flash and more aggressive retaliation. For all of us, whether sitting in the driver’s seat or walking through other events in life, Paul’s timeless reminder to “dim the lights” and focus on the cross and listen to the leading and guiding of the Spirit will do us well.