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The Importance of Listening in a Politically Divisive Climate

The other day, I saw a post from a sweet momma of little girls. Their smiling faces paused my scrolling. She said the words on many people’s hearts: I hope and pray that – should the horrible moment come – my girls will be believed.

I pray so, too. There have been many years (an understatement) where men’s words were implicitly believed and women’s counted void. Too, over those years, many a woman has been abused in the quiet of night and scorned by the light of day.

I know, also, that men have been wrongfully accused by women (over those same years and in our culture today).

As I’m typing this, I’m keenly aware of my Little Noah, my boy, still growing big within the protection of his loving momma. I’m aware of my desires and hopes for him, the newfound prayers I mumble in the morning to the only One who hears. I’m aware that I would desperately want someone to listen to him if he were ever falsely accused of anything.

Friends, I want to talk about our political climate for a moment. Politics is a topic I’ve religiously avoided on social media because of its divisive nature. We’ve all seen a well-meant comment spark the hottest anger. It happens most easily online, but we also see it happening on street corners and outside government buildings. Hurtful words morphing into bloody fists - a country torn in two. And that’s a problem.

If a coin does in fact have two sides, then justice is never as simple as one human’s word against another. Understanding takes listening. Listening intently with the end goal of understanding – not staking a case against the other. Listening rebukes violence by its very nature; it seeks to ease tension and to embody respect. It says, “you first.”

A key benefit of listening is that an apt (appropriate) reply can be made. We stand on the basis of mutual understanding and can move forward from there. When we speak without listening, we act out of pride, endorsing chaos, creating enmity. We have this on good authority: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

Listening does not mean accumulating sound bites until we “think” we have the gist of what’s happening. It means searching out the truth with diligence until we understand the story in context. Without context, and without hearing both sides, we’re left without any real sense of justice: because “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). This is justice – to weight both sides impartially and to reach a conclusion from the outcome.

So. Here’s where we take a breath. Here’s where we realize that harsh words do, indeed, stir up anger and that no one benefits from that. Here’s where we lay the rocks down and pick up peace instead.

And if we’ve truly listened and sought to understand, here’s the truth we can cling to at the end of the day: we Jesus-followers, who trust in the Living God, can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will bring justice. Sometimes we see it here on earth, and sometimes we don’t. But we take comfort that He sees, knows, and protects those hurt or wrongfully accused.

And with that I’ll say amen.


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