Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Listening Presence

So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with. Eugene Peterson (The Message: Commentary introduction for the book of James)
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends:
lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue,
and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness
doesn’t grow from human anger.

James 1:19 (The Message)

When next you sit down and watch the news, particularly those that have a talking head with a panel of experts, watch how well they listen. Granted they are governed by the clock and so their experts must disseminate their vast knowledge in seconds, but the level of anger that often explodes seems to be a direct result of the lack of listening and the excess of talking.

Across the United States Christians and churches are suffering because of deaf ears and tongues in overdrive. With each news story we read about a church in crisis or our knowledge of a congregation struggling, the thread connecting them all is anger. Where and why the anger grew is varied, but, more often than not, it is a result of people’s unwillingness to listen more intently than they speak.

Our culture is angry. How then are we, as followers of Jesus Christ, supposed to live in this world and not let the world corrupt us? What the world sees, unfortunately, is “us” looking and acting exactly like “them.” James gives us at least one way we can be markedly different and it isn’t really anything new but a truth that isn’t practiced consistently and it is this: Listen before you speak. Listening allows God to speak and so bring about his righteousness in and through us.

Jesus, forgive me for the number of times
that I jump in with speech and so
water the seeds of anger.
Help me to be quick to listen and so bring
about God’s righteous glory.

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