Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Hospitality of Listening

Today I visited an elderly couple from church. As we ended our time together, the retired farmer stated the hardest thing for him being old is nobody listens to him. He has wisdom to share and people don't hear him.

In a clergy gathering in worship, there was an invitation to show your support for a specific, controversial issue through wearing a specific item. So we are put into categories, labeled in a setting which does not allow for dialog. I get labeled without the opportunity to be heard.

Two very different situations but similar problems. We dismiss people who are too old, too young, different than us in any way. We dismiss each other, even in attempts to reach out to others. Those who have different doctrine than us are dismissed as too liberal and not holding Scripture in high enough regard or too conservative and holding a narrow interpretation of Scripture.

So how do we listen to each other?I think it would be the easy, pat answer to say "stop labeling." But it has to be more than that. We all place people, ideas, values, and things into categories. I think the issue is when we allow those categories to become walls which block us from each other or stones we throw at each other.

We need to find a way to listen. Hospitality is valuing the other. Listening, hearing each other is the basic way we can value one another. Perhaps we need to define listening first. Do you feel listened to only when the other person agrees with you, concedes the point or does what you advise? Can we listen, disagree, and still fellowship?
We don't live in a society which encourages listening. We encourage yelling, telling others off, and shutting people out. How do we, especially those who are Christians, live out the hospitality of listening?

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