February 20, 2017

Being a Good Listener

Megan K. Defranza in Two Views on Homosexuality
(tense has been edited from the original quote)

How many Christ followers do you know that you would describe as a "good listener?"

Taking it a step further, when the topic turns to politics or specific religious beliefs, how many people do you know where the description of "good listener" would apply?

We all know that there are those certain topics - politics, religion, sex and money at the very least - that you should avoid in conversation. We tell ourselves that they are controversial and too many opinions abound in order to have safe and comfortable discussions in many contexts. However, that is not the real issue when it comes to these topics. The issue is that most of are much more apt to argue, defend the "truth" and tow the party line, before we are willing to listen so someone else's perspective.

I've recently been reading my way through the Counterpoints Series published by Zondervan which is a 32-volume series (33 now with the most recent addition covering the topic of gay, lesbian and bi-sexuality) covering a number of topics from women in leadership, divorce, church governance, to hell and many other important topics. As I've read, it's been teaching me one major point: the Bible isn't always as clear or black and white as some people want it to be or say that it is. Every volume of the series is contributed to by numerous bible scholars and theologians who are all prayerfully and unapologetically looking to Scripture to find Truth, and they all reach different conclusions!

Sadly, the Church has been divided in to numerous denominations because of this fact. We look at the different conclusions as the need to draw lines in the sand and to "protect" the truth that we have claimed for our own. By doing this, we have actually stunted our growth and development within our faith because the fact of the matter is that the only way we grow is as a result of tension. Yet, by defending, arguing and separating we worship the god of comfort and ease, not the God of the Bible.

In The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns, he writes: "Ending the debate, getting to the right answer, is not the prime directive in the spiritual life. You can tussle with each other and with God (and win!), and it’s all good. The back-and-forth with the Bible is where God is found. Enter the dialogue and you find God waiting for you, laughing with delight, ready to be a part of that back-and-forth."

As a Jesus follower, I am more and more trying to challenge myself with this idea. I want to be a Christian who has a reputation of listening first, of considering other opinions and perspectives and to have a "I might be wrong" attitude first and foremost, rather than, "I'm right, period." There are lots of people who deeply love Jesus and I have a ton to learn from all of them.

Would you describe yourself as a good listener when it comes to hot topics of today? Why or why not?

What does being a good listener mean to you?

What does it mean to listen and to respectfully disagree?

P.S. There are lots of people who don't necessarily love or belief in Jesus that I have a lot to learn from as well, but that's a blog for another day! 

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