Listen More


“Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing their opinions.” - Proverbs 18:2 


 More times than I can count, I have witnessed or held conversations in which it was clear that someone was not listening to the person with whom they were speaking, but rather waiting impatiently to voice what they planned to say all along, as if presuming to know what the other person had to say. 
Too often it seems that we talk past each other and thus fail to listen to the truth that others speak to us.  But is this evidence of Christ being formed in us?  
I would offer that one of the greatest services we can give to one another is the gift of listening.  Indeed listening serves as one of the foundational elements of Christian community.  Just as our love for God begins with learning to listen to God’s Word and Holy Spirit, so too is the beginning of love for our neighbors found in learning to listen to them. 
In an examination of Christian service in his seminal work Life Together, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues, “[Christians] forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because the Christians are talking even when they should be listening.  But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.  The death of the spiritual life starts here.” 

In these difficult days our inclination can be to “circle the wagons” in order to safeguard our sense of normalcy as well as our particular worldview when faced with new information that challenges how we see or have learned things like history, politics, or faith.  
However, to stop listening and thus stop learning undermines the call to be crucified and raised with Christ into newness of life.  Bonhoeffer warns sharply that this signals the death of our spiritual life because we cease also to listen to God, prizing more dearly our preconceived notions of the world than the revelation of truth that God may be speaking to us through another. 
True listening that seeks understanding honors those with whom we dialogue as beloved children of God, and not first as enemies.  Impatient, inattentive listening serves only to dismiss another person, and ultimately reveals more about our relationship to God than what we perceive as the error of their thinking or disposition.  
In such a hyper-partisan time as this, it’s imperative that we pray for humility and for the life of Christ to be formed in us so that we may open our ears and hearts to one another, particularly to those with whom we disagree.  Of course this does not preclude the necessity of calling a lie a lie or of struggling for truth in a world tainted by injustice and spin.  Just the opposite, it calls us as followers of Christ to hone our discernment and patience so that we may hear the pleas of those who suffer, listen to those who share views other than our own, and thus grow closer to God by courageously coming to the end of ourselves. 

- Pastor Patrick

Last Published: July 8, 2020 1:46 PM
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