One of the greatest gifts I am working hard to develop these days is the gift of listening. James 1:19 wisely advises us to “be swift to hear, slow to speak" (NKJV).
I want to make sure the people I share my faith with and those I am honored to lead know that I care about them personally. The best way to communicate that we care is by listening and finding ways to hunt down what those around us need. This may take some time and effort, but once we listen and show signs that we care, everything in every relationship we have will grow. Paul described it as love in 1 Corinthians 13.
In this fast-paced world of preaching, growing churches and media ministry, listening can easily become a rare discipline. Those of us who preach and teach for a living can easily lose our ability to listen. We can become more interested in filling up seats and sharing the message of Christ’s love than showing the love of Christ. In other words, we talk too much.
Jesus lived in a time that had strong political turmoil, religious persecution and ethnic and economic tensions that were constantly pressing in on His life. But, in the middle of those pressures, He reached out and listened to the poor, the sick, the brokenhearted, the captive, the blind and the bruised (Luke 4:18).
He was committed to reconciliation. Reconciliation is a fancy way of saying that God is committed to restoring people who need help. To Jesus, the ministry of reconciliation had no boundaries. He was accused of eating and drinking with sinners. His response was classic: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those that are sick" (Mark 2:17). We are called to the difficult people in the world who are often very hard to listen to.
Who could have imagined that the last two years would be filled with such high emotional and political drama? Christians stand on both sides of the complex issues being debated today. Despite all of these distractions, Jesus said our main assignment as believers is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). This crosses all political, racial and religious boundaries. We are the ones who must find creative ways to bring a message of reconciliation and healing in this season of turmoil and challenge.
My personal approach to crossing the growing divide is to listen and care more. It is so easy for Christians to rub a few verses together and feel that they have answers for everyone. Sometimes the best answer we really have is a loving and listening ear. Let’s pull our lives over on the side of the road and be more open to listening to wise council and those around us. We might learn new truths and find better ways to show the love of Christ. In the Navy, they say “all hands on deck.” I suggest we alter that to say, “all ears on deck."
- Pray for God to bring somebody into your life that needs a listening ear, and listen.
- The next time you are in an overwhelming conversation, listen, and then pray before you speak.
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