The pandemic and the spotlight on racial injustice have revealed a lot about where we are at as a society and a nation. It has exposed the cracks in the ways we think and deal with each other. One of the things I have noticed is that the conversations and discussions we would and should be having have instead devolved into talk heads or shouting matches. Sadly, this isn’t a new phenomenon, it seems in this era of social media that people are easy to let their thumbs or tongue snap out a reply as soon as it crosses their minds.
This summer we have been talking about the book of James found in the New Testament. James who was Jesus’ half-brother goes into detail about how the tongue or our words can really be a source of good or a source for evil. From the many commentaries I have read and Bible discussions we have had about this book, one of the key takeaways that I have come away with is that we need to listen more than we talk. I think we are experiencing right now the fruits of talking before listening.
Listening is more than just readying our response to whatever the person is saying to us. Listening is instead treating the person you are listening to with respect, even if you don’t agree with them. Listening is about trying to understand where they are coming from. Listening is allowing other people to be heard, who feel that nobody cares about them or their life story. Listening is hard because it can make us look at ourselves in ways that don’t always jive with our self-image as well as it can cause us to ask uncomfortable questions about ourselves and our communities.
James reminds us that listening is a key part of the two commandments that Jesus gave us which are to Love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. So, this week, my challenge to all of us is how do we begin to listen better and treat people with the respect and humanity that Jesus charges us to do in all of our relationships each and every day.