• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

“Swift” to listen

After describing one indicator of a “closing mind” in my last post as being: “unable to discern how God might be speaking to me (to us) through different and varied sources,” my mind immediately starting probing that familiar verse in James 1:19.

Know this, my beloved brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to hear [or, to listen], slow to speak, slow to anger.” 

The outworking of our new birth (1:18) has to be seen in practical ways or works, and in this context the major thrust must be by a heart that listens, that receives news from others, that gives heed to what another is saying.  There are two actions which we must be “slow” to do, and only one that we must be “swift” or quick to do.  It could mean that the two we are to be “slow” to do are actually actions that we are by nature quick to do, and that the one action we must we quick to do is an action we are by nature slow to do.  One writer put it this way: “Listening is an art that is difficult to master, for it means to take an intense interest in the person who is speaking.” 

By the very fact that many of us have been working cross-culturally for a number of years (the average number of years spent on a field, across our mission, is 18), we have gained a wealth of experience and insight.  We understand the culture and context in which we live.  We know what ministry looks like.  Yet, the danger of a “closing mind” could still be close at hand if we choose to be “quick to speak, slow to listen, slow to anger” in regards to others.  Sharing the wisdom and insights we have gained with new workers and others is vital, but the corresponding truth is also vital.  Namely that, by actively listening to new workers and others we may discern new ideas, approaches, insights that God desires to work into our hearts and ministries; and as well that by intensely listening to others, we may better know how to speak the truth and respond to others in love.  Being “swift” to listen does not mean that we are silent, but that we listen well in order to know how to more appropriately and with much grace respond [“speak”] to another.  We listen to learn.  We listen to speak the truth in love.

This double task is something of which our community needs to regularly remind us, as well as come alongside of us to facilitate honest evaluation and practice.

2 Responses

  1. Excuse the long quote, but I’m repeatedly convicted by Bonhoeffer’s words on the subject of listening:

    “Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to ‘offer’ something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. The death of spiritual life starts here, and in the end there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words. Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only themselves and for their own words and plans.”

  2. Such a great quote Nate, David i like this thread for another reason, besides my own sanctification…it fits so well with coaching principles as well. In general, people know that we care about them, and their decisions, when we listen well. I too struggle with that inner desire to “help” or “fix the problem” in another’s life without often really listening closely to what THEY think is going on or what is needed. The words of James…like so many others re: our tongues…fits well with coaching one another into better team relationships, relationships w/ nationals, and a closer relationship w/ the Lord as well. Thanks for the prod!

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