We have an increased opportunity to run our mouths more than any other generation. That’s because we can run those mouths not only with our actual mouths, but with our devices as well. We have at our fingertips the ability to broadcast our deepest thoughts, most profound opinions, and hottest takes more easily than ever before. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we are such a loud people – it’s because we have the opportunity to be loud. And man, are we loud.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments to be loud. There are. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we don’t get angry, but being a Christian does shape the manner in which we are angry, what makes us angry, and how we express that anger. Similarly, being a Christian means that we should not primarily be known for our anger and outrage so that when that anger and outrage does come, it actually means something instead of just being the latest expression of an enraged heart. Before we are speakers, we ought to instead be listeners. In fact, Christians ought to actually be the best listeners, and here are three reasons why:
1. Because the Bible tells us to be.
“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19-20).
Into the throng of noise steps this command from James – the command to listen. Not tweet. Not broadcast. Not Facebook live. But listen. And then be slow to speak in all the various ways we can.
True enough, the Bible doesn’t only tell us to listen. We are to preach; we are to give testimony; we are to sing. There is all kinds of talking that we are meant to do as Christians. It seems, though, that we tend to swing the pendulum too far away from the listening side. If we are truly people who believe in the authority of Scripture, then the simplest and most obvious reason why we ought to be good listeners is because the Bible tells us to be.
2. Because we are most aware of our own faults.
Part of being a Christian is a deep understanding of your own sin. In fact, you can’t really be a Christian without that understanding – that we are, at the core, sinful people in need of grace. But it’s not only that we are sinful in heart – it’s that we are also flawed in other areas. We aren’t experts on everything in the world. We have varying degrees of education, experience, and even wisdom.
As Christians, we don’t have to be afraid of knowing those shortcomings. We can humbly acknowledge them, and in so doing, we can assume a posture of listening and learning because we know ourselves. Our inability or refusal to listen to others is, more times than not, steeped in assumption. We either assume the worst about someone else or we assume that we actually know better than another person. In either case, the result is a failure to listen. But when we are aware of our own faults, we make a different assumption – we assume that we have something to learn before we have something to teach; something to receive before we have something to give; something to understand before we seek to be understood.
3. Because we have greater security.
We are all, at some level, still living middle school. We all have our own particular insecurities that are constantly in the background. We are concerned about our appearance, our intelligence, our ingenuity, or something else, and those long held insecurities affect us more than we think we do. One of the ways they do is they make us assume a posture of defensiveness. We feel attacked even if we’re not. So when we find ourselves in a conversation with someone who doesn’t think, believe, or behave as we do, we take it personally and are quick to move on that perceived attack. We talk. Argue. Attack first. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For the Christian it should not be that way.
The Christian ought to be daily confronting his lingering insecurities through the power of the gospel. For in the gospel, we know that we are fully accepted in Christ. We are the chosen sons and daughters of God. And the confidence that comes from that knowledge, among other things, bolsters our ability to listen.
Friends, we are all talking. A lot. Let’s make sure that as we speak, our words are seasoned with salt. And what’s more, let’s make sure that overall our posture is of listening so that we don’t say more than we ought to.