For, “Whoever would love life

and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good;

they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:10-12

In Katherine Applegate’s novel, The One and Only Ivan, Ivan the gorilla utters a profound statement when he says, “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.” And ya know what…he’s right. We live in a day and age where words are everywhere. It is hard to escape from the deafening noise of so many words.

When it comes to discussions about religion, we must ask ourselves this question: Are we adding to the noise? When we demoralize and dehumanize another because their beliefs are not like ours, we certainly are. A much better and wiser approach? Listening.

It’s long been said that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so why is it that our mouths get all the credit? When we speak out of turn or with an agenda, we only end up looking foolish. But, when we listen, we love. When we listen, people stop being viewed as agendas to us, and once again become people—beautiful, broken people dearly loved by the God who made them in His likeness. Listening, just simply holding our tongue and listening, helps us accomplish this.

I love the way the Message renders Proverbs 21:23,

“Watch your words and hold your tongue;
you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.”

We not only save ourselves a lot of grief, but those around us. No wonder James admonished us about the tongue. One misplaced or ill-spoken word can be like a small spark that sets a forest on fire. That is why he also calls us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

When we take the time to listen and to ask better questions like, “Can you tell me more about what you believe?” or “What caused you to believe that?” we not only employ wisdom, but we show Christ-like honor and love to those who so desperately need Him.

Today, consecrate your members in prayer. Begin with your ears, then move to your eyes, mouth, mind, heart, and so on until you make it all the way to your feet. As you do, confess any sin present and ask God to use your members for His glory and honor to build others up.

By Sheila Rennau