Loving through listening

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.—Philippians 2:4

How often do we take time to listen to the broken people in our world?

The most convicting words I heard last week came from an unusual source. A family member who is broken and has been living in sin for quite some time. Someone I deeply love. The one in my life who many of my Christian friends and family are praying for without ceasing, and know there is a strong calling on his life. The one others have sadly just stopped asking about anymore.

Through a deep conversation this week, he poured his heart out to another family member. God has given me a gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10), a spiritual gift that means being able to distinguish a person, statement, situation or environment. So I’m not surprised by anything he shared about his latest views on God or spirituality. But what he said that convicted me was about believers.

If Christians care so much about the broken, why are more of them not meeting them where they are, not only physically in locations where they hang out… but also in listening to what lies within their hearts and minds? Why aren’t more believers taking time to learn about their situations and carefully asking questions that lead to breakthroughs and more thoughtful and specific prayers?

Are we too busy? Too many other priorities?

And furthermore, do we not recognize the broken people you know may be a future difference-maker for Jesus? Are we looking for, praying for and believing in the potential breakthrough God has placed in their lives?

If you’re following through with this ministry work, feel free to share about it. I have friends that are fearless when ministering for Jesus in this way. I, for one, am still learning. But I have seen breakthroughs and power in the ministry of listening.

Listen for hurt. Pray for healing. And realize we’re all different.

I’ve heard many stories of hurt over the years. The ones who have walked away from the church and God and painfully decided to let go of God’s best for them. Because of hurtful words that were said. Or nothing was said at all, and that was the problem. Those hurtful moments many of us have experienced… through words or actions not backed up by God’s love or the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Some of us who’ve been hurt pray for strength and forgive the one that wronged them or wronged the church, and move forward. I’ve been there, several times.

But we all have unique experiences and different emotional levels and strengths. And some of the most deeply hurt people, especially those young in years or in their faith, may require more than someone praying with them one time and giving them a hug or high five to then go home and never talk about it again.

Some of the most broken people need to be heard. Accepted. Loved. They need a relationship, not through social media, but through establishing trust. It’s time well spent to sit down with a hurting soul and just love them. Some need to be counseled, but with counseling first comes listening. Whether they are right or wrong. They need you to listen. Stop talking. Stop thinking about how it affects you. Stop thinking period. And truly JUST LISTEN.

Listen to the past hurts. Hear the pain that comes from years, maybe even decades, of battles.

Respectfully love, and listen, like Jesus.

My “broken” family member was once sitting in a church with a hat on, his head down in silent prayer during worship. Someone came up and smacked him against the head, and told him to “son, take that hat off in the house of the Lord.” He was spending a quiet, glorious moment talking to his Jesus, and what I call someone’s “religious spirit” ignorantly took over.

Despite your personal opinion on church fashion (that alone is another topic for another day!), it is your responsibility as a believer to show the love of Jesus. If you show them Jesus, and reflect His love, they will better understand how to clothe themselves with righteousness rather than carrying a scar from not feeling good enough to even quietly pray.

Stop focusing on their headwear. His tattoos. Her piercings. My eye liner. The fact they’re not the same age or dress like all of your Bible study group friends.

God loves each one of us for who we are, and if we are to love Him back, we must each examine our own insecurities, prejudices and selfish tendencies to make sure we make every effort to love as He loves. Once we get past that, we can truly listen and minister in a way that reflects Jesus.

Do you realize who Jesus chose as his disciples? Many believers today wouldn’t have associated with them. Yet they were chosen by God to spread love and the best news we will ever hear. Through God, they were the authors of some of the most beautiful books ever written, which we still read to this day.

Look what we would have missed if no one had listened.

People are hurting. People are broken. People all around you are holding in fears. If you want to truly change lives, be sure you stop talking about it long enough to listen. God makes beautiful stories out of broken lives, and I encourage you to hear the story firsthand. And if you are a difference-maker for Jesus, pray about how you may be called to be a part of that story.

Even if it’s just by simply listening.

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving us a life of victory. I pray for my sisters and brothers tonight that need to open up their hearts, and I ask that you guide them to the right listeners. If there is someone in need of my listening ears, help me quickly see that and be a reflection of Your unfailing love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional words to remember:

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8

… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak… from Ecclesiastes 3:7

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. —Proverbs 18:2

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