A few years ago, my wife suggested I get my hearing tested. I suspect she thought I had attended too many rock concerts in years gone by. She might be right. My hearing test demonstrated that I am “unbalanced”. For those of you who know me fairly well, you are probably thinking, “we knew that already”. The doctor said I was losing the ability to hear high tones in one ear, and low tones in the other. My hearing is unbalanced. I will eventually need hearing aids. For now, I make do; but when I am in a crowd, I often have to listen very hard. I am slowly losing the ability to listen.
Whether it is on social media, in our political discourse, or even in our theological discussions – we seem to be losing the ability to listen. It seems the primary form of discourse is talking right past each other, and ultimately missing the point altogether.
Jesus put the interests of others ahead of his. His example is opposed to this culture when it comes to the issue of listening.
So how can we listen better?
Psalm 40:6 says, “You have given me an open ear”. Eugene Peterson points out that the literal translation is “ears you have dug for me”. The psalmist here is using a visual image of our heads being like blocks of granite, which God literally has to carve or dig ears out of, for us to hear.
Have we prayed that God would dig ears for us?
If we could say with the psalmist that God has dug ears for us, what would the implications be?
Let me highlight three:
Listening to God
This should go without saying, but…
I hope we do this as we spend time in the Word and prayer, but also as we keep our ears (and eyes) open for the opportunities God brings across our paths daily to live out our faith in word and deed.
Listening to Each Other
What would happen if we listened to other Christians with empathy? Especially those we disagreed with. The primary apologetic that we have been given is our love for one another (John 13:35). Yet often, the church seems to be something other than a place of unity. Yesterday, I ran across an article by Ed Stetzer (our 2014 EFCC Conference speaker) entitled “Why Can’t We Disagree Well”. He is writing about a social issue in the USA, but his words have broader implications. He says,
“Look past…winning the disagreement and actually try to understand the other side. This doesn’t demand your agreement, but it does demand your time, understanding, and charity…How can we spend this week listening to the voices of our fellow believers who disagree with us? How can we honor them as being made in the image of God even when we come with different opinions?”
Those are good words. They dovetail with our EFCC motto, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ”. As we grow in our ability to listen to our fellow believers, I believe we demonstrate a radical “unity in diversity” to a non-Christian world that so desperately longs for and needs to see exactly that.
Listening to Our Neighbours
If we carried out mission with a listening ear, would our witness be more effective? I believe so. Much of our witness today is comprised of presentations and answers. I’m not convinced the presentations and answers connect with the heart of people who need Jesus. I am convinced, however, that listening is key: listening to the culture, the heart cries, the needs, the longings, and the hurts, of those around us. This will lead us into deeper relationships with our neighbours. I also believe it is a great second step, after praying (check out Look Up and Reach Out for more information), in connecting with those who need Jesus.