Listen First, Speak Later

Summer 2016 will long be remembered not for the 100 degree scorching heat or when the Texas Rangers stayed competitive in a heated pennant race, but when the social rhetoric among a people who claim to be one nation under God went nuclear, when “all hell broke loose.”

The ever present underlying ugly racial and political chasm is often covered up our insatiable hunger for news about sports, music and celebrities. No more. Four phrases all composed by three words sum up our current reality. “Black Lives Matter.” “All lives Matter.”  “Back the Blue.” “Clinton versus Trump.”

Since the evening of July 7th, I have been repeatedly encouraged by officers of the peace, African Americans, and Pathway political activists from both sides of the aisle to speak into our current reality. I have been doing more listening than speaking, here is why.

When someone says “Black Lives Matter” (and they do) or “All Lives Matter” (and they do) or “Back the Blue” (and I do) and we counter with one of the other phrases, we only inflame the controversy. When we engage our mouths or social media posts before really listening to the heart of the other we are discounting their feelings. Discounting the feelings of anyone who believes they are the victim of injustice or have been unjustly stereotyped only escalates accusations, suspicions and often culminates in irrational shouting matches, toxic social media posts and senseless violence. Violence only begets more violence.

We are way too quick to speak and far too slow to listen. Some 2,000 years ago a disciple of Jesus named James spoke these words of wisdom, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent among you and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:19-21

Unfortunately, we who call ourselves religious or Christian are often the last to heed James’ wisdom. We often struggle to hold our tongues or resist the urge to chime in on social media. Sadly, we sometimes not only allow ourselves to get sucked into a political or racially charged controversy, we perpetuate, even instigate. But that is not new either. “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongue deceive themselves and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26

In our current racial and political charged season I implore us all to listen first and speak later. Before choosing a side or building a case or debating an issue, let’s simply listen. Listen with the ears of our mind and heart.  Listen first. Speak later.

“Hey pastor, what about the phrase “Clinton versus Trump? You didn’t say anything.” Exactly.

Pray for our nation, for the human race and speak with your vote.

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