"The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love to the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.Truly listening to another - what is it that makes this so hard? Why is it that I place more value on the thoughtless words tumbling from my own lips (or the half-formed ones rolling around inside my mind waiting for an opportunity to spill out) than on the intimations of my sister in Christ? If I truly want to know my brother, I must learn to listen attentively to the "overflow of his heart." So often I listen with only half an ear, all the while evaluating what is said and composing my own response. Sometimes it's little more than waiting my turn. Why do I think I have to prepare a witty response or decide whether I agree with what is being said? I think there's more value in receiving whatever another says in a spirit of openness and goodwill without immediately assigning it my own "expert opinion." We share something more than mere words and information when we speak and listen to one another - in a way, we lay bare pieces of our souls. It's delicate and vulnerable, worth more than the sum of the words exchanged and deserving far more than my half-hearted attention.
"Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and for his brother, but only for himself and his own follies…"
Lord Jesus, you were ever ready to listen to those who cried out to you. You gave us ears to hear: help us to hear. May we listen to all we meet, and to those who come to us in trouble. Remind us daily that there is a time for silence and a time for speaking, and show us when to speak and when to hold our peace. Never let us miss a cry for help because we are too busy talking about ourselves. Make us ready to listen to others, because we listen each day in silence to you, O Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Michael Counsell