A lot of healing can happen in our world if we all take the time to listen. Listen not for the sake of responding, but for the purpose of understanding. Most of us listen in order to “fix or solve” a perceived problem. Other times, we listen with a critical spirit, ready to judge. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion.”
Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear about ourselves in the story of others. We don’t want to hear about our own racism, sexism, or how our actions have suppressed the life-story of others. Generous listening opens up the possibility for healing; our own healing and the healing of others.
The more we learn about other people’s stories, the less possible it is to dismiss them. We need to move beyond the sound bites of society and sit and listen to the stories of others. We need to look past the “fake news” and out of context quotes and misplaced facts to hear the truthfulness of our neighbor’s story. When you engage in conversation with someone of different political or social beliefs, ask yourself, “Am I here to win an argument, or am I here to create a relationship?” Paul’s expressed concern to Timothy about the church applies today, “Warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening” (2 Timothy 2:14).
People outside of the church are asking, “Are you listening?” Are we? Will we? I want to challenge you to take your faith serious this week. Connect with one person you disagree with: political, socially, religiously. Ask them to share their story. Don’t argue. Don’t set out to refute. Just listen. Go at it with the purpose to understand. Remember: Listening is a form of hospitality. Hebrews encourages us, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).