The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15
It’s common to hear Christians say, “Speak the truth with love,” but what about listening? I once read the story of a young man who was struggling with a number of problems. He was depressed, his faith was waning, and his parents eventually convinced him to sit down with their Church’s pastor. The day of the appointment, the pastor walked in and, before the young man could even open his mouth, began to speak about “How the grace of God was sufficient for all things.”
“By the end of the meeting I knew a lot about him and what he believed, but he knew absolutely nothing about me,” the young man would later recall. Sadly, one of the most overlooked commands in the Bible is that we are to listen to others. Too often, in our zeal to share the word of Christ with others, we end up trampling them in platitudes and redundant scriptures. But listening can be a powerful tool. Listening builds understanding diminishes fear, and can be comforting in a time of sorrow.
Look at this passage from the book of James,
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life 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. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:19-25
Listening is the first step in acting out the scriptures, not speaking. The Church has the potential to do so much good in the world, to share the love of Christ with so many people. However, in order to do this, we must first stop talking, sit quietly, and get to know them. We need to hear their stories, understand their hurts, empathize with their anger, and then when they have nothing else to say, that is when we speak our truth. It’s time to start using our ears before we use our words.