Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Dear community and friends of First Presbyterian Church,
James instructs us to listen and to act. Be quick to hear and be doers of the word. We need both. We need to listen and we need to act. But, I think the order is important to. Often we act before we listen. We give our opinion before we understand. Or we hear something that sounds out of tune with how we put the world together and so we immediately respond with a counter argument that put things back in harmony with our perspective. It is a natural response. We want harmony; discordant opinions grate against us. And so we immediately react in an attempt to keep things in sync. But, we often act and speak before really listening.
I think right now is a time when we need to do far more listening than responding. We need to be doers but before we know what to do and how to do it we need to hear well. In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death and the protests of the past week we, who are white, need to listen to those whose experience is different than ours. There is plenty of tragedy in the world. You may have had more than your fair share in your life. Brokenness abounds. But, that doesn’t mean we understand the experience of others. Listening to the experience of another doesn’t diminish your experience. But, it will likely expand it. Grace abounds too. God’s grace is big enough, wide enough, deep enough to bring healing and hope to the whole world. There is no need to hoard it.
Here are a few sources that have been helpful to me.
I pulled Letter from Birmingham Jail off my shelf this week and was struck by its beauty and saddened by how relevant it is still today. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not the only voice out there, and other voices need to be listened to, but this is a good place to start. And you can read this letter in about a half an hour. You can find this easily with a google search.
Here is a link to a conversation between Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary, and Dwight Radcliff, a pastor and professor in Southern California. https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/dwight-radcliff-on-black-pain/
Jemar Tisby is an historian and author and he has a podcast on Christianity from a black perspective, you can find that podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/pass-the-mic/id1435500798?mt=2
I read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy a couple of years ago. I highly recommend this book. I have not seen the movie yet but the movie is also available in many places.
Here is a helpful short comic strip that I think give some insight as to why we have such a hard time listening to others. It’s worth a look. https://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe_clean?fbclid=IwAR31ACZY0SbNeVbjo83TUTp_33k3cL5NXtYW78Ug49waxbMUSNnWwFO_hfA
Bryn Cavin has also put together a much more comprehensive list of resources. Thanks Bryn! There are things to read, to watch, to listen to. There are also some things to do. I didn’t vet this list, I’m guessing Bryn didn’t completely either, some are just other people’s lists of resources. I imagine there are things and groups and ideas that I would disagree with on certain things – but that is the point. Listening to the experience of others will challenge us.
Here is Bryn's List.
We need to listen. We also need to act. But, listening comes first. As you listen, notice how you respond. Some things will make you angry. Some will make you sad. Often you will say, “but what about…” That’s okay. Pay attention. Listen. Talk through things with others. Trust that God is working in you and in others. Listen to Scripture. And then be doers of the word as well.