July 5, 2020
Listening is part of the solution to our problems
One of my favorite stories is about an old man who lived his final years in the home of his son and his wife. They had a daily routine. Every afternoon about five o’clock the old man went for a walk, always returning by six when the three of them had supper together. One day the old man was 45 minutes late returning for supper. With worried faces, his son and his wife asked if there had been a problem. “No,” the old man replied, “I just ran into a man who would not stop listening to me!”
Listening is a fine art. You may smile at that old man but the truth is, you do feel blessed when someone stops talking long enough to really listen to you. Some people never stop talking. They are the “motor mouths” who think the rest of us have nothing better to do than to listen to what they have to say. Listening is not in their game plan.
Jesus knew what it was like to have people in his audience who paid little attention to his teaching. To get their attention, Jesus used a bit of subtle humor when he said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” People must have smiled at his words, “He who has ears.” Everyone has ears. Everyone also knows that the words of a speaker can “go in one ear and out the other.” Jesus was inviting people to pay attention, really listen, to what he was saying.
Recent translations have improved the words of Jesus in the King James Version: “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Goodspeed has him say: “Let him who has ears listen!” The NRSV: “Let anyone with ears listen!” The Living Bible offers the clearest version yet: “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!" It would be fair to say that Jesus was saying was, “Hey, listen up now, this is important!”
In these days of protests in America, some peaceful and some violent, we are all realizing the importance of listening. It is not a lesson for white people alone; all of us, whatever the color of our skin, must learn to listen to one another. We need to talk to one another and we need to listen to one another. That will open up opportunities to love one another and work together to create a better world.
When it comes to the protests, we must not refuse to listen because some evil people are using the protests as a smokescreen for looting, stealing, destroying property, and even murder. Just as it is wrong to condemn all law enforcement personnel because some of them are bad apples, it is also wrong to condemn all the protestors because some of them are committed to violence and destruction. So it is imperative that we listen and learn what the vast majority of the protestors are saying – and work to make the changes that justice and fairness demand.
Even more important, we need to listen to what God is saying. The Bible implores us to listen to God. In the Book of Revelation, Christ says to the seven churches: “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” It is fascinating to recall what transpired on the Mount of Transfiguration. There Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus to confirm his role as the Messiah. There his countenance was transfigured with divine glory. But even more significant was what God said: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Jesus urged the people to listen to what he said, and God the Father commanded us to listen to Jesus. And what is Jesus saying to us now, who are caught up in the conflict that is ripping our nation apart? I hear Jesus saying this to us:
“Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.” (John 6)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5)
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25)
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you….You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15)
Serious effort is necessary for us truly to listen, understand and obey. We must want to hear what Jesus is saying and how it applies to us. We must shut out the multitude of other “voices” clamoring for our attention. Only then can we really hear Jesus.
At the last, when God draws the curtain upon the stage of time, it is certain that we will hear his voice. There will be no wax in our ears then. Either we will hear him say, “Depart from me, I never knew you;” or we will hear him say, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.”
When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Nazareth, his disciples were “hard of hearing.” We are much like them. Eventually, those first century disciples listened and understood Jesus; then as the obeyed him, the Jesus Movement spread across the world. It is still spreading, offering hope and salvation to all people everywhere.
It is not too late for us to get the wax out of our ears and listen and learn from each other. We must not turn a deaf ear either to what hurting people are saying or to what God is saying. This is our day, our turn, to listen, learn, obey and love in ways that please God. If you will pause and quietly listen, really listen, you may hear the inner voice saying again, “Let anyone with ears listen!” + + +
Living in Christ is a hard book to put down. I decided to read one chapter each day, but when I had only six chapters left, I just kept reading. I’ve liked all of Walter’s books, and I read his weekly Altar Call devotional which I receive by email. But here is what makes Living in Christ a winner: (1) Interesting and holds the reader’s attention, (2) Each of the 46 short chapters can be read in a few minutes after which you can meditate on the meaningful Christ-centered message and (3) It’s hard to put down. Thank you, Walter Albritton, Servant of Jesus Christ.
— Dr. John Kline, sjc (A Distinguished Professor, John is Director of the Leadership Development Institute at Troy University)