Book Review | Reactivity

“Grace never calls wrong right. Grace is a way of responding to wrong.” Paul David Tripp, p. 67

I’ve long been a fan of Paul David Tripp’s writing and really enjoyed his latest book Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms our Actions and Reactions. As usual, Tripp simply points to Scripture and what God’s word has to say a particular topic…in this case, how to respond in the midst of the toxic culture we are living in. This book calls the reader to examine their heart to ask…How does Christ in me make a difference in the way I respond?

This was a great read and I’d highly recommend it. I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • The purpose of this book is to look at the culture of toxic reactivity, which seems to touch all of us daily, through the lens of the gospel.  When we look at the dominant themes in our culture this way, we find understanding, clarity, calling, new direction, and hope.  I have spent my life unpacking the glory, beauty, and depth of the gospel.  This is the lane that God has called me to, and I plan on staying in that lane until I’m on the other side. p. 12
  • Proverbs 1:2-7 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (ESV)
  • My hope is that look at what we are saying to one another and how we are saying it through the lens of the gospel will not just inform us but will also convict and transform us, so as a gospel community we will stand above the toxicity that seems to be everywhere around us and shine as a city on a hill in a sadly darkened world. p. 14
  • Reactions without wisdom, reactions not shaped by love, reactions devoid of respect, reactions not tempered by honest self-examination, reactions that are more judgmental than corrective, reactions fueled by pride not humility, and reactions driven more by emotion than thoughtful reflection never produce anything godly and good. p. 17
  • “By this all people will know that you are my disciple if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
  • “Beloved, let us love one another, for live is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
  • Because of the clarity of His call to love and His promise to us of empowering grace, there are things that we cannot allow to be normalized in our everyday responses to one another.
    1. The normalization of emotionally driven responses.
    2. The normalization of anger-driven responses.
      • “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20
    3. The normalization of disrespectful responses.
    4. The normalization of self-righteous responses.
    5. The normalization of vengeful responses.
    6. The normalization of individualism.
    7. The normalization of the love of controversy.
    8. The normalization of tribalism. p. 27
  • Conviction is a good thing and should not be resisted. It is God giving eyes to see and opening hearts to receive. p. 29
  • Paul delineates three heart commitments that will always lie behind a culture of wholesome responses to one another.
    • Every response must be shaped by a consideration of the person.
    • Every responses must be shaped by an understanding of the situation.
    • Every response must be shaped by the goal of grace.
      • Grace is not about ignoring wrong; it is a radically different way of dealing with wrong. p. 39
  • We have drifted far from a lifestyle of wholesome talk, one in which you can expect others to listen well, take time to consider, and speak with understanding, respect, and grace. p. 45
  • Sin
    • is self-centered
    • rebels against authority
      • The culture of toxic reactivity submits to no authority but the authority of self. p. 48
    • is independent
      • The hermeneutic of the gospel is a community project. We will fully comprehend the redeeming magnitude of the love of God only when we are developing our understanding in community with other believers. Gospel theology is never developed independently. Practical, transformational gospel understanding is a community project. The gospel is only ever fully known in the context of humble, approachable, and mutually dependent relationships with other believers. Any behavior that harms those relationships harms our potential for fully understanding truths that so desperately need to be known. p. 52
    • is vengeful
      • Love reads and listens carefully and assigns the best intention to the writer’s or speaker’s words. p. 54
    • is a problem we all have. p. 55
  • God makes his invisible grace visible by sending people of grace to give grace to people who need grace. p. 57
  • What does it mean to respond in grace?
    • Grace never calls wrong right. Grace is a way of responding to wrong.
    • Grace replaces condemnation with community.
    • Grace is humble.
    • Grace is shaped by sympathy and understanding.
    • Grace is patient and kind.
    • Grace willingly suffers for the sake of another.
    • It takes grace to give grace. p. 67
  • A heart that is resting in present and future garce won’t be easily dissatisfied or quickly critical. A heart that is filled with thanksgiving will use words to edify, comfort, and encourage, not to slay the next, nearest enemy. But gospel amnesia, which forgets what we have been given now and what is guaranteed to come, leaves us vulnerable to the seductive call of the reactivity culture that has drawn and continues to draw too many of us in. p. 101
  • Before you react, how about lovingly asking yourself, “Who is this person that I’m reacting to, what has her life been life, and what is going on in and around her right now?” p. 123
  • Live, react, respond, and pray as a wisdom-needy person. p. 126
  • A treasure is something of value that is worth seeking, possessing, enjoying, and celebrating. Embedded in Christ’s teaching are three “treasure principles”:
    • Everyone lives for some kind of treasure.
    • The thing that is your treasure will control your heart.
    • What controls your heart will control your words and behavior. p. 133
  • Sin causes us to turn from God and give our hearts in love, service, and submission to an endless catalog of God-replacements, asking the created thing to give us the contentment of heart that only God can give. This means that everything you say or post is shaped by a heart that is ruled either by God or by something in the creation. You and I always say what we say and do what we do in pursuit of something. p. 134
  • If we have worshiped our way into this toxic mess, then to solve it we will have to worship our way out. p. 134
  • Values that Counter a Reactive Culture
    • The gospel is of greater value than politics.
    • Relationships are of greater value than dominating the conversation and winning the day.
    • God’s honor is of greater value than your comfort, appreciation, and respect.
    • Unity is of greater value than individualism or tribalism.
    • Love is of great value than even the most subtle forms of hate.
    • Character is of greater value than position or power. p. 141
  • “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23 p. 156
  • “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 p. 157
  • If I am resting in his presence:
    • I will always speak in a way that gives grace to the hearer (Ephesians 4:29)
    • I will not let the sun go down on my anger (Ephesians 4:26)
    • I will submit to God’s kingship, not try to build a kingdom of my own (Matthew 6:33)
    • I will believe that as a child of God I have the power to resist the devil (James 4:7)
    • I will commit to not think of myself more highly than I ought to think (Romans 12:30
    • I will live within my God-designed limits (Romans 12:3)
    • I will remember that my world is not out of control (Acts 17:22-34) p. 160
  • “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 p. 161

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