“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:19-22 NIV
Just a couple weeks ago, I had a stranger walk up to me declaring, “I’ve come over to declare ‘Christ is Risen.’ He went on for about a half hour sharing about himself – his family, his church, his life experiences – then asked if it would be alright if he opened up the Scriptures and randomly read a passage aloud. When he finished, he said a short blessing and walked away to prepare to do the same to his next willing audience.
That day the Lord gave me a personal taste of what so many people experience from Christians. If you ask public culture how they would describe “Christians” they probably would say our reputation is opinionated, judgmental, quick to declare beliefs, and slow to listen to other points of view. They might even describe us as angry when others don’t agree with us. Here, James speaks directly to followers of Jesus and he is spot on as he calls out our biggest blindspots.
There is one practice, however, I think could redeem our Christian reputation. And that’s listening! If listening became the new descriptor for Christians, imagine how that would change what people said about us.
Active listening is powerful because it’s an act of love. To care is to hear someone out, to ask further questions, and to remain curious about a person’s opinions, their life experiences, and their desires. Pick one person today and practice listening. Don’t add any comment from yourself for at least one half hour unless asked to do so. Ask further questions to keep the person talking to demonstrate your attentive love.
By Yvonne Biel