What if Derek Chauvin had just listened to George Floyd as he cried out for breath?
What if more of our elected officials actually listened to their fellow Americans or their fellow leaders before tweeting at them?
What if the various commentators on television and radio and social media prioritized listening more than pontificating and polarizing?
What if we genuinely listened to people from other backgrounds and ethnicities and sought to understand life in their shoes?
What if more community members followed the example of Michigan Sheriff, Christopher Swanson, who took off his mask, laid aside his shield, walked with peaceful protestors, and simply listened to their voices?
And closer to home, what if we put away our phones and slowed down enough to listen to our families and neighbors? (I’m pointing the finger at myself …)
Does shouting the loudest or typing with all caps or using the most expletives really seem like a recipe for positive societal change?
While there’s no excuse for criminal behavior, in watching the footage of the more violent rioters and looters in America’s cities, I’ve wondered whether these men and women have anyone who will listen to their pain and frustration, or if they truly feel that causing mayhem is the only way they can be heard? What if they had a mentor, a role model, a father, or church leader who would just listen and set a positive example?
What if the world had more listeners, beginning with me, and beginning with you, in our own homes, churches, communities, and circles of influence?
I used to think of myself as a good listener. I could blame having a houseful of loud young children, plus the constant barrage of technology, but that’s just shifting responsibility.
Our listening problem is as old as time. It began (and continues) with our failure to listen to the Lord. Hundreds of times, God calls out in His Word to the Israelites and to Christians and all those who hear and read, to simply listen.
The book of Proverbs praises those who listen: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Prov. 1:5, 7, 8)
Jesus’ half-brother, James, said much the same thing: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
At Jesus’ transfiguration, God shushes the noise of this world and makes it clear whom we are to listen to: “This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him.” (Mark 9:7)
Who are the faithful sheep of Jesus’ flock? “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them our of My hand.” (John 10:27)
Listen to Jesus’ voice when He calls you His beloved sheep and children of the Heavenly Father.
And, listen to Jesus’ voice when He calls you to be a true neighbor to others, whether or not they look like you or agree with you.
Turn off the news for a little while. Silence your phone sometime. Listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus. Then, listen to your spouse, your children, the folks next door. But let’s not stop there. Listen to those with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye, or to those whose lives are very different from yours. Listening to others doesn’t mean you have to give up your convictions, but you might learn something from them, or even earn an opportunity to share Jesus.
We all wish sometimes that someone would stop and listen to us. So many neighbors around us are aching for the same thing.
Just listen. It’s not going to solve everything, but it’s a place to start.