“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
Part of earning the right to speak into lives about Jesus comes first with a heart’s desire to listen to the life stories, questions and concerns of those we are trying to reach. The usual pattern of a Christian engaging with a skeptic is to share their own story of believing in Christ and then strongly encourage them to put their trust in Jesus. There is so much wrong with that approach. Your conversion story may interest you, but it is rarely life-changing for someone who is spiritually lost. How often do we give the skeptic an opportunity to first share their life story, including why they choose to not believe that Jesus is our Savior?
Listening to and encouraging others to share their questions about life, death, and suffering without judgment from the listener is the model Christ used to interact with skeptics. When we listen without interrupting, we can give the lost an appreciation of God’s compassion and forgiveness. It will also validate the words of the seeker and affirm that they, their life, and whatever is on their heart matters.
Listening often speaks louder than our own words. It confirms that we care about them on a personal level. It gives assurance that we are there for them during the good and the bad, and when the time is right, to offer the hope and grace of Jesus.
God’s charge to all of us is to love and serve others no matter how inconvenient it may be for us. Ironically, when we listen and encourage others, we often find peace and hope in our own difficult circumstances. God’s mercy and grace are great when we walk with Him as we serve and love others.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
“Finally, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
The Bible contains accounts of good and destructive interactions with people trying to give advice.
In the Book of Job, he loved and obeyed God and was blessed with family and wealth. God allowed Job’s faith to be tested. He lost his ten children to death; his livestock were killed; he became ill and was ostracized by his people. Enter three of his companions who came to “comfort” him and broke all the rules of giving godly counsel. They were critical and impatient, not wanting to listen to Job’s story. They refused to listen, pray with him, and join in his grief by being there with him. Instead, they lectured, questioned, advised, rationalized, and rebuked him from their hard hearts. They argued with him that his suffering came from his sin and that God’s wrath was judging him.
It’s easy to judge Job’s friends. Are we more like them than we would like to admit? Do we try to avoid someone suffering and needing someone to listen to their story? Maybe we are quick to condescend to meet with them and then talk and offer advice, quote Scripture and give them a pep-talk rather than listen and support them emotionally. Then we justify our own bad behavior because we have our own stuff to worry about and are too busy doing other “more important” things.
Profile of a biblical fool
“One who takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov. 18:2).
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13).
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Prov. 29:20).
Proverbs 18:2, “the fool finds pleasure only in saying what he wants to say. Because of his pride or selfishness or lack of love, he doesn’t care about understanding. He is impulsive. He answers before he hears.such a person is deemed foolish and shameful” (Proverbs 18:13).
Profile of a good listener
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)
“The profile of a good listener is the opposite of the proverbial fool: patient, energetic, focused. He lets the other person finish without interrupting. Because he is eager to put others before himself, he listens and works hard to understand the other person. He doesn’t think so highly of himself that he regularly speaks before he hears.
Just think about Jesus. Think about his conversations. How engaged he seemed. How much he listened to others, and asked questions in response. How skilled he was at drawing others out, and communicating his sympathy for a person.” (Deepak Reju)
Do you want to be like the proverbial fool, or do you want to be like Jesus?
Dear Lord Jesus, I want to walk in spirit and truth, to walk humbly before You, and to learn to be graciously patient, especially when I am with other people. Lord, I want to live a life honoring You and fulfill the role that You have given me to do within the body of Christ.
Please help me to be quick to listen to other people and not always be the one that wants other people to always listen to me. Help me to listen in love, not only to their needs, hopes and fears but to listen to their advice and opinions. May I encourage them as someone who lifts up the other person and considers their needs before my own.
Please help me to listen to what others say and not to be waiting for an opportunity for me to discuss my opinions or display my own inflated intelligence. Give me the grace and patience to be a good listener so that I may demonstrate the love of Jesus to all around me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen