On Listening to God and One Another


“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord . . .” (Isaiah 51: 1 ESV) In the scene of the Transfiguration, the Father calls on us to listen to the Son.  The voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” (Mark 9: 7b ESV)   We are to listen to the words of the Lord.  In these words are wisdom and righteousness.

We are also to listen carefully to the words of others, not that they always are words righteousness and truth.  They are not.  The ” . . . tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.”  (James 3: 6 ESV)  So we are to discern and distinguish the words of others for truth and untruth.  To do this, carefullistening is required.

We must listen so that we understand as thoroughly as possible what the other person is saying.  We can not respond to that person with accuracy if we do not listen to attain accuracy.  No understanding can be achieved without careful listening.  To listen carefully is an instance of love of neighbor and love of the enemy.

We must take seriously instances when we are corrected by another in our listening. “I did not say this, I said that.”  We must consider such responses seriously, not brushing them off as mere obfuscations.  The goal is to get an accurate picture of what the other is saying.  We would wish the same for ourselves.  We must seek understanding, not a confirmation of our prejudices.

What are some simple rules to follow?

  1.  Prayer that you may be an instrument of God. As Saint Francis’ great prayer says, “Grant that we may not so much seek  . . . “to be understood as to understand.” (Lutheran Book of Worship, Pew Edition, p 48).
  2. Ask the Lord to open your ears.
  3. Listen to what God has to say to you.  Many passages of the Holy Scriptures will help you in this.
  4. When in dialogue with another in an informal or formal setting, be intent on understanding what he/she had to say. You may help clarify their own thinking. Ask questions to clarify for yourself.  When necessary, repeat what is said to you to confirm whether you are hearing correctly or incorrectly.
  5. Do not use a strategy of misrepresentation or rely on a straw man.
  6. Do not be tempted to entertain a crowd at the expense of truth.  Humor can be used effectively without falling into such temptation.
  7. Keep as a goal, especially in formal debate, of clarity of both or several points of view whether they are right or wrong.
  8. Understand our own limitations as well as those of the other person.  Sometimes, we do not intend to misunderstand.  We just do.
  9. Listen to the Word of the Lord.  Again, listen to the Word of the Lord for guidance and truth.  Frequent reading of Scriptures with a deep intention to understand them will help.

Michael G. Tavella

July 1, 2019

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