Some time ago, two of my relatives appeared on the BBC Radio 4 program ‘The Listening Project’. They spoke well about an incredibly painful and personal subject. What impressed me most, though, was that they were a prime example of listening well, rather than just waiting to speak.
Romans 10:17 says, ‘Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ’. Hearing the word is the first step to living it out. This type of active listening is an act of faith, for, through hearing the word, God is able to pour out His grace on His people. Bonhoeffer says to listen well you need to be externally relaxed and internally active. He continues that ‘listening can be a greater service than speaking’. Sometimes, it’s not about finding solutions to the person’s problem, but allowing God’s affirmation to flow into the person’s life. This is one of the ways God uses good listening to bring His kingdom near.
Good listening enables us to ask the right questions. Proverbs 20:5 says, ‘The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out’. Good listening and perceptive questioning will point a person towards holiness and hope in God.
In fact, how we listen reflects our personal relationship with God. Good listening is a way God uses us to pour out His grace into the lives of others. In fact, it’s a dynamic of true Christian fellowship.
Good listening is an act of love. It goes hand in hand with the mind of Christ. As it is written in Philippians 2:5, ‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’. You need have no other agenda than to want God’s best for the person. Active listening is at its best when it promotes us to be more Christ-like, and when it’s used as a tool to help us prefer others. ‘You should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:4).
Active listening can express the love talked about in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, ‘Love is patient, love is kind’. When listening leads us to love as Christ loves us, He’s able to bring more of His children to Himself. Listening leads you to be able to love people more effectively. In my study bible there is a quote from someone called Jean Anouilh who says, ‘Love is the gift of oneself’, and what better way to give of yourself than to listen to one another.
Prayer: Father God, help us to listen first to Your word, and then to the hearts of our brothers and sisters. Help us to make our lives a reflection of what we hear and see the Father doing. Amen.
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