The Lost Art of Listening Like Jesus
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, and came across a post from an old seminary classmate. He declared that he was angry, and that in the coming days he was going to be posting things that some people might find offensive, but he didn't care if they did.
He went on to say something like, "If you no longer want to be my friend because of what I am going to say--so be it."
Lately, lots of people seem to have adopted that attitude. I was watching a cable news channel the other day and the host of the program had two people on his show who had differing viewpoints on the recent election.
Neither one would allow the other to speak. They shouted over each other as they tried to make their own particular point be heard, which resulted in no one being able to understand anything they were saying.
Our culture is full of people who seem to only care about their own stories, and have little interest in listening to the stories of others. Civility is on it's last leg. Curiosity has given way to boorish Self-Importance. We aren't listening to one another.
Far too many people want to tell the world why they feel the way they do, and far too few people are willing to do what it takes to actually feel what others are feeling.
In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looks out over the crowds of people who were pressing upon him to hear him teach. He was tired, but he looked upon them with compassion in all of their need. He didn't complain about how they weren't attentive to his ideas, opinions and feelings. The only agenda he had was the Father's.
The Scripture reads, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
If we are ever going to find common ground in our very divided society, we are going to have to start looking upon one another with the kind of open-hearted, open-minded, loving empathy that Jesus showed to everyone.
"All people are alive to God," Jesus said once. Think about how adjusting our attitudes about others according to Jesus' example might change the way we interact with one another. Instead of brusquely declaring our own thoughts and opinions with little care where they land, perhaps we would find the love to simply listen.
May you exercise loving, attentive listening today and every day. May you find the strength to be patient even toward those with whom you disagree. May you listen to the stories of others and discover within them connections to your own. May you see the world as full of people who are alive to God.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.