James the brother of Jesus urges us in his epistle: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak“, yet my experience is that sadly we are all to quick to speak and too slow to listen.
In Parliaments Politicians are so keen to talk but not so keen to listen that they have created a word “filibuster” where they “speak without pausing” to hijack a potential law they don’t want to see reach the statute book.
I was at a Churchy meeting recently and the phrases “I”, “me”, “we” and “us” were used a lot.
At New Wine one of the speakers said “when I hear these words spoken in Churches it cuts God out of the conversation entirely”.
Now I’m not saying it isn’t good to know what people think and feel, but primarily what we want actually doesn’t matter that much.
What actually matters is what Christ is saying to us and whether are being obedient to command?
Yet often we are so keen on sharing our opinion, rather than seeking God’s will on a situation.
We are so keen to have good ideas, but less keen sometimes to know if the idea is Gods idea. Although God’s ideas normally sound crazy, they also work better than ours!
A set of ladders would be a good idea for taking the city of Jericho, but Gods idea was marching around worshipping.
We often debate ideas in a way that assumes we have a silent God, yet scripture has never given us any reason to suppose that God does not speak, but human experiences shows us that we sadly are often less inclined to listen.
The Book of Hebrews says: “today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts”, and John the book of Revelation says “let him who has ears listen to what the spirit says to the Church”.
Yet I believe too often too much of our Church hears the opinions of the most opinionated, rather than necessarily hearing the ‘still small voice’ of God’s direction, often missed and over-looked in hubbub that is so many of our Churches meetings, meeting where people want to be heard, but not always want to listen.
Interestingly are the people who have the jobs within the Church people who are known for their worldly wisdom, or their deep prayerfulness.
Stephen Cottrell talks about “hitting the ground kneeling”, if we want God to speak deeply through us, then we need to walk deeply with him, learn to hear his voice -not to show off and look all prophetic- but to be attuned to God’s heart-beat and his ways.
Often the heart of hearing from God is humility, is that often we have to turn down our own internal, personal volume -our own need to be heard, our own egos, our view on the person speaking, our experiences (both good and bad) and seek God himself, listen for his voice.
Yet rather than “having all the answers” and coming before God with empty hands is both a worshipful display of sacrifice and in vulnerability is a statement of faith and expectation in the generosity of God.
We don’t like not knowing stuff, and would rather tell God what to do, than get on our knees and seek him.
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do” Anne Lamott.
-I’d suggest that if your faith causes you to hate anyone, then you’re not following the Christ who said “father forgive them” whilst hanging and dying on a cross- but the idea of God is thinking what we think on every issue is a dangerous one.
“If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself” Timothy Keller.
One of my college lecturers John Kelly used to talk about the danger of sharing our opinions with a deep booming “thus sayeth the Lord” type voice.
Yet someone is bound to say about the Bible about this point, and God’s written word is a wonderful gift to us. Yet sadly scripture is too often used a little too selectively, to try and back up our point of view rather than seeking God’s heart. I remember David White, Vicar of St. Michael Le Belfrey in York, once said “Think of the Bible as a lamp post, do you use it for illumination, or like a drunk for support?” Recently I read Harper Lee’s New(ish) book “To Set A Watchman” and was scary how many “sound protestant Christians” were playing fast and loose with scripture to justify their horrific racist views so prevalent in the deep south in the 1950’s. We need people not just cherry picking scripture, but prayerfully seeking God, wisely with our hearts and minds open to what his Spirit wants to say to us, tested, weighed and shared honourably with integrity.
Hearing God’s voice is at the heart of discipleship.
The little boy Samuel heard God’s voice call him in the temple, which started a life of fruitful obedience (the beginning of the chain reaction which brought about the birth of Christ many centuries later)…
May we be a Samuel generation, that hears the voice of God, and echoes his famous prayer “speak Lord for your servant(s) are listening”.