Listening

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak… James 1:19 ESV

In our growth group last night, one of the members mentioned they were forming a relationship with a lesbian couple with kids and wondered if they would be accepted in our group. I enjoyed listening to the various opinions shared by the group. Most were in agreement they would be welcomed. A few felt we had to clarify our position on homosexuality as we welcomed them, while others felt that would best be addressed later. As I reflected on our discussion, I was convicted that we must become better listeners.

Yesterday afternoon I went down to the boardwalk to interview people about church attendance (since I had been challenged by another member in my group). The whole goal of the exercise was to listen…to ask how often they attended church, what they liked or what kept them away, and if they had heard of our church. I learned several things. First, everyone I asked was willing to answer my questions. Secondly, they seemed surprised that I didn’t end with a hard sell of my church or Christianity. Finally, I learned a lot because I listened and didn’t try to sell. Several people don’t attend church because of health reasons (one mom was very pregnant and mentioned she threw up the last time she went to church!). Others indicated they felt churches were too judgmental. Others indicated they loved the fellowship and singing in their churches. Most had never heard of our church.

By listening, I learned a lot. Perhaps that’s why James challenged us to listen. Could listening to others be part of our spiritual formation? After all, Jesus Himself generally asked questions and then listened to the response. Could it be that if a lesbian couple visited or joined our growth group, listening to their story would be more important than telling them our beliefs about their lifestyle? Some friends of mine did exactly this. Their next door neighbors were in a lesbian relationship. Instead of condemning them, they befriended them and listened to them. These women were in a lot of emotional and physical pain. While my friends eventually moved out of state, they were able to build a relationship and listen to those women, giving them a picture of Christ in the process. Are you listening?

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