Heard that question a lot lately. Someone has a difficult story, and others wonder why simply listening seems beyond our cultural capability.
I get it. Even in ideal circumstances, deep, non-judgmental listening takes a great deal of effort. Put the story in an emotionally-charged (or politically-charged) situation and one has to work really hard to “just listen.”
Listening – without judgement – requires me to release my need for power and control. If I can categorize you…Oh, you’re one of those people…I get to dismiss you. That’s what power and control are all about, dismissing or marginalizing people.
Jesus isn’t about power. He asked us to be servants, foot-washers, the last folks in line. Whenever churches or Christians forget this, whenever we get stuck on power and forcing our views on others, we stop being servants. When we’re so sure we know “God’s will” that we’re willing to enforce it (enforce – use force to make them do it our way), we can’t listen. We’re too busy composing a winning response, a way to keep the upper hand.
Jesus doesn’t need us to be powerful – He’s got that covered. He invites us to join Him in service. But we can’t serve with an agenda, if we need to win, to have our way, to be in control.
We can’t serve, we can’t listen, until we surrender our silly illusion of power. That’s the path Jesus asks us to travel.
My prayer, and maybe yours, is that He’ll help me turn off my (political – national – socioeconomic – cultural) filters, that I’ll be a bit more willing to hear and understand without an agenda.
I want to just listen.