The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gospel Listening

I read something this morning that I resonated with – something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time – especially in the last six weeks or so. It’s found in a book by my favorite scholar, D.A. Carson, entitled, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson. The book’s about Carson’s father, an “ordinary” pastor. However, something about his mother, not his father, leapt off the pages. Speaking of his mother, Carson writes,

"She was amazingly insightful on a wide range of both personal and theological issues. My sister Joyce recalls that when she returned home for a visit during her own training to become a nurse, she went out with a friend one evening and then the two returned home to continue conversation. When the friend left (Joyce writes),

Mom mentioned to me how interested I can appear when the topic is important to me but how I obviously tuned out my friend when she spoke of things that mattered to her but that I didn’t care about. Although I resented her analysis at the time, I soon took a second look at what she said and realized that it was all too true. The memory of those words have helped me greatly over the years when I see myself reverting to this un-Christlike behavior."

Has the gospel so gripped your soul that it’s influenced your listening skills? When others open their mouths to speak, do you tune out or tune in?

Think about this. Jesus is the ultimate listener. While the gospels relate a Savior who’s mostly doing the talking, I don’t think that’s the whole story. Have you ever wondered what it was like to grow up with Jesus? Well, one leader in the first century church knew first-hand – Jesus’ brother, James. I think he’s sharing from personal experience when he says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (1.19). Perhaps James learned the grace of listening from his eldest sibling?

This weekend is one of the more enjoyable of the calendar year. I want to encourage you to be a good listener. Ask personal questions. At the party or event you’ll be attending, have an eye for the “least of these” who’s rarely listened to. Ask them how they’re doing – really doing. Ask questions to better understand their heart, then listen – even if it’s difficult. Sympathize with someone walking through a dark season; rejoice with his good fortune; show interest in her mundane existence. And here’s an even bigger challenge: patiently listen to that person who’s good at talking and terrible at listening…because it may help you see how patiently attentive God is when you speak to Him in prayer. Be Jesus – be gripped by the gospel – by the ministry of listening.

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