Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 57; 145, Jeremiah 44:1-14, 1 Corinthians 15:30-41, Matthew 11:16-24
When people aren’t inclined to listen to us, how do we make ourselves heard?
Some of us raise our voices, which feels satisfying but can hand people an excuse not to listen. Others speak more softly, which in many situations can draw people in, but is not foolproof. A co-worker once told me she saves crying for when she needs her husband to really listen. Young children apply sheer persistence: “Mommy… Mommy… Mommy…”
The Lord, who wanted the people of Israel to repent of their idol worship and return worshiping the one who had delivered them from Egypt, tried variations on all of the above:
I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, “I beg you not to do this abominable thing that I hate!” But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their wickedness and make no offerings to other gods. So my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.
The Lord wasn’t just angry about the idol worship. Even the sacrifices they did make at the temple were offensive as long as they forgot and neglected the widows and orphans among them to pursue their own pleasures. Because they didn’t want to hear they needed to change, they rejected the pleas and the shouts and – eventually – the disastrous signs from the Lord.
When we aren’t inclined to listen to someone, how do we justify ignoring them?
Being loud or angry doesn’t make them wrong. A softer approach doesn’t make them weak. An emotional response doesn’t mean they aren’t rational. And being annoying doesn’t invalidate their message. Even being wrong before doesn’t mean someone can’t be right later. As much as we might like it to be so.
Being heard and listening are both important skills to nurture. And one of the best ways to be heard is to make sure people know you are also listening. Important messages are seldom delivered in exactly the way we would like them to be. Listening now, even when we don’t care to, can save a whole lot of trouble later.
Comfort: You don’t have to say something perfectly for it to matter.
Challenge: Listen more than you speak.
Prayer: Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. (Psalm 85:8)
Discussion: What makes you not want to listen to someone?
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