Faith Today: Let anyone with ears listen
By Graham McMahon
Chilliwack Church of the Nazarene
I’m sure we’ve all had the experience. We are talking with a friend, a spouse, a child, perhaps asking them to do something or communicating a point of view, and we know they have ears, and we know they can hear us, but we’re not sure they’re listening to us.
The outcome is what gives it away. What we ask for doesn’t get done, or there is misunderstanding and conflict.
Jesus had a saying he used often. It came out in various forms and lengths, but one was, “Let anyone with ears listen” (Matthew 11:15). Jesus was aware that just because we have ears, we do not always listen.
The Greek word he used for “listen” implies understanding and understanding meant action. That action could mean obedience or it could simply mean seeking to understand more about the person speaking.
Listening is important. It’s probably one of the most important practices in all of life and it’s key to following Jesus. Not only does listening result in obedience to the ways of Jesus, it is one of the ways of Jesus.
Jesus’ teaching to love one another and our neighbours means we need to listen to others. Listening is the key to any relationship, be it marriage, family, dating, friendship, work, or even civic.
Listening is not easy. Our pride, opinions, impatience, laziness, tempers, and strivings for power can get the best of us. The apostle James picked up on this in his letter to Christians spread through the Roman Empire: “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Now that’s hard. Yet it is the practice we perhaps need the most in our lives, our cities, our country, and in the international community.
I have found myself disheartened recently over the anger, the vitriol, and the violence that is so quickly turned to. I see it in the news, all levels of politics, in the current global conflicts, and in personal lives.It seems as though we do not know how to listen to one another, nor how to disagree.
Others are labeled as bigots, hateful, or evil because they do not hold the same point of view over a particular issue. Rather than seek to understand the other and leave space for disagreement, which takes time, effort, patience, and grace, it’s easier and quicker to close our ears and stick to our guns (metaphorically speaking, but all too often literally as well). But at what cost?
We all have ears to listen, we simply need to take the time to use them. Conflict and misunderstanding are all remedied through listening. When we listen to others, even to those we have a disagreement with, we make space for them and this is love and the way to peace.
In another adaptation of his favourite saying, Jesus gave this command: “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:26-28). I cannot think of another exhortation more relevant for our lives and world today.
It’s not easy, but will we listen and learn to listen to others?
w Graham McMahon is a pastor serving the Chilliwack Church of the Nazarene. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.