My son, Samuel, loves to fish… and I love every excuse to be outside. When I have time alone with each child, I try to have intentional discussions about God and life, what I wish I would have done differently, and I listen to what I can learn from their perspectives. I do not want to hold so tightly to my own limited perspective that I remove the opportunity for them to share about what is happening from their view of the world.
Recent conversations regarding race, fear, churches, and politics have led to some reflection in my own life. I try to listen and allow my own understanding to evolve. My children hear me question and reevaluate the groups and churches I have associated/affiliated with based on how they’ve responded to recent events. We’ve talked about Christianity and its uniqueness when it comes to the gender and racial diversity among leadership being built into it by Jesus and Paul (and all throughout the Old Testament, if it is understood correctly). I want them to understand that the Christian faith is full of so much variety, freedom, and life… and not to fall into the trap of narrowly defining their beliefs.
Samuel and I have been talking a lot about what it means to sit in silence. It’s so easy to get absorbed in our phones, televisions, video games, and computers that we forget to sit and listen. The two of us have been sitting on the dock he likes to fish from and just trying to listen for birds, fish, alligators, and the private planes that land near the river where we fish.
“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Social Media has really provided a megaphone by which we are able to speak very loudly and quickly. It is very popular to be quick to speak, but I wonder if anyone is really listening… or simply looking for corroboration of what they already think.
Too often, we Christians tend to treat our individual knowledge as if it is the ultimate truth. Our perception of God becomes our god. We act confrontational and condescending toward others who disagree or who may differ. Maybe this atmosphere of everyone screaming, but nobody listening is something common. Maybe I just lean toward being idealistic and, somewhat, naive about how hardened and uncaring our society has become.
Yesterday, I saw a post on Twitter where someone who claimed to be a Christian was labeling as heretical anyone who disagreed with his beliefs. It was a little disturbing to find out that this guy is a pastor in the state where I live. He had a website to promote himself, so I went to see what he was all about. It turns out he really likes the teachings of an eighteenth century Christian preacher who argued in the defense of slavery in America and is widely considered to be a heretic. I decided that I am fine with him thinking I am a heretic and moved on. However, his condescending statement was retweeted by hundreds who listen to this man and just agreed to label countless people they’ve never met as heretics. Ridiculous.
Part of being quick to hear is understanding the person speaking and where s/he is coming from.
Maybe that’s how we should be responding in all our interactions right now. Maybe we need to stop excusing our refusal to listen by hiding behind our favorite politicians and parties.
Maybe we go out and meet people and experience events for ourselves, rather than being told what to think by elected officials, media outlets, and others who have something to gain from presenting a limited and distorted perspective.
After all… the righteousness of God referenced by James in the above verse is only produced through our extension of love to others.
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