Listen Instead

Over the past few months, I’ve written several drafts. Some I’ve abandoned half way through and some I’ve written and edited until all I have to do is hit the publish button. Something has been holding me back though—or maybe I should say—Someone.

When I first started writing, it was more of an outlet to put the discombobulated thoughts in my head into a more solidified form. As I began to draft posts, I could see how skewed some of my ideas were, and so I researched and edited my writings. Eventually, the ideas I started with turned into something else entirely, and while others may have benefited from what was published, I learned a lot from what God was showing me personally, at that point in our journey, through those writing processes.

However, a few months back, that all came to a halt. While I had several posts that I thought were well articulated, and could benefit others, I wasn’t able to publish them. Now, I mean I could have hit the publish button, but God seemed to be asking me not to yet, if ever. And so, because of the relationship God has formed with me, I obeyed—not because I had to and God was making me; I wanted to because of this relationship of love and trust that he’s developed with me.

I’ve been wondering when or if I should write more while chatting with God (aka praying). Over time, I’ve come to understand more fully what God has been showing me along the way—to just listen instead.

Me: Why should I just listen though? Can’t I write and listen?
God: Just trust me.

Me: What if they’re “wrong” or abusing scripture or being offensive or hurting others or…
God: Just listen.

But what am I listening for?

We can spend so much time proclaiming our right views that we alienate the very people we’re trying to help, or think we are “further along than” and are helping by our “right” ways of thinking. We can often be right for the wrong reasons. However, much of the time, we can learn a great deal about someone, and possibly even help a lot more, when we just listen. It seems everyone wants to be heard, and the pleas are getting louder and more widespread, but very few are taking the time to truly listen.

I tend to learn something from everyone, even if it wasn’t something they intended, but what I’m starting to discover goes deeper still. I’m beginning to see more the motivation behind the words—whether fear, anger, hurt, disappointment, disillusionment, love, hate, power, control, security, etc…either for themselves or others. This causes me to want to listen more, to understand them more, to see why they have taken the stance they have—to see into their heart more…and to embrace them, in love, on their journey. And this is why I see the beauty in someone being openly honest with what’s in their heart, even if it ruffles feathers.

I think this is just a smidgen of how God sees us—how he loves us and just listens—

even on our worse days,
even when we beg and bargain with him,
even when we don’t believe in him,
even when we curse him….

He listens and sees the why. From the most bloodthirsty killer to the most holy saint, God sees our heart, he knows the whys, and he loves us eternally regardless. He sees the pain and struggle in our heart—even if we hate ourselves and everyone else, even if we have only known how to hate God because of who we think he is—he knows us deeply, behind our masks, and loves us just the same.

It’s his eternal love that I’ve come to believe in—that I’ve come to know in the depths of my spirit. It’s that relationship that Jesus offers for us to freely receive, no matter who we are. There’s no more price to pay or hurtles to jump, though we’ve been convinced there are. God has been with us our entire lives, even in our worst, most atrocious state. I can now see more clearly the journey he has taken with me every step of the way, even when I didn’t know him.

Let’s treat each other like God loves everyone fully. Let’s quit with the “love the sinner and hate the sin” mantra as it’s very hard, if not impossible, to separate a person from their experiences that have made them who they are at that point in their life. For many people, that phrase ends up sounding more like, “You have to change who you are and become who I think you should be in order for me to fully, unconditionally love you.” Often people will act just like they’re treated, especially if they’ve tried to walk our version of the “straight and narrow” and failed. Much of the time, people just need to know that they are being heard, that their heart is being seen, and that they are loved still—even at their worse. That’s the type of love that can change someone—that’s Father’s love—and it can be reflected through us.

How would that kind of love change the world and what atrocities would it prevent? Have we been failing our call to be love, yet blaming “those others?”

Perhaps, instead of the “love the sinner” approach, let’s love like Jesus has really paid, in full, for their sins—just like he paid for ours. Let’s love “them” like God loves them, and us—seeing through curses and insults and unrighteousness, or whatever label we may attach. Let’s open our eyes to see straight into those hurt and broken hearts desperate for a loving embrace.

….because if we, as Christians, don’t reflect Jesus’ love to the hurt and confused and broken and desperate and outcast and angry and hateful….who will?

Let’s love “them” like they’re not sinners—let’s love like we’ve been called to, like we are loved by Father. Let’s strive to love more and more like Jesus, so others can find that same relationship with him—

even if we don’t like it,
even if we have to complain to God,
even when we don’t feel like it,
even if it costs us our pride, position, or “right” stances,
even when it hurts,
even if it costs us everything…

….even if it means we follow Jesus all the way to the cross.

3 thoughts on “Listen Instead

  1. Oh, John, this is written so well, so full of grace, so spot on – “We can spend so much time proclaiming our right views that we alienate the very people we’re trying to help.” I would only change one thing here: we alienate the very people Jesus wants us to help.

    I’ve always disliked, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” It seemed disingenuous to me. “Let’s love them like they’re not sinners” says it all.

    Even if…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are great words He has given you to share. Thank you.

    Patience is so “not human”. It must in most cases be learned. Once learned we can get in sync with God and his plan for each of us. Learning to take our human mind out of our thoughts long enough to allow His Spirit to speak to us, to guide us, to put the words to be spoken in our mouths and on our finger tips, can be painful to us humans. For God to speak through us, we must let Him.

    Liked by 1 person

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