My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, - James 1:19To accompany this quote, the word listen is found at least 412 times in the NIV Bible. We are called to listen to what people say, there is a great calling for this in a world where people are generally turned away from Christ because of those Christians who just shove Jesus down other's throats. I am not trying to say that we shouldn't be courageous and that we shouldn't be proclaiming Jesus in this world, but to do it to the extent that people are getting put off, to be blinded to other possibilities and to arrogantly say people are wrong because of it probably means we are going to far. With some regret I'm quite cynical when it comes to God acting in people's lives, I can't just say "God did this" or "God did that" because it doesn't quite sum up the whole experience, it's shortening the facts. What actually happened is "God acted in this persons life as such to create this coincidence here which caused this to happen". I'm not going to have a rant at how easily people get excited by these things when sometimes there is something greater happening behind it but what it does mean is that I can look past that God-blindfold to see the situation a bit better and see where people are coming from with their ideas and experiences. I've talked to people who have had severe situations occur in their lives and an God-blindfolded person destroys them by saying "It's an act of God" or "If they had some more faith....". This is people not listening and acting on a life where they've not met these experiences before. Okay, I haven't either but I've done some reading around the topic at least. Yes, it is all within God's plan for people's lives but what you're doing to non-believers is not loving, in fact it's devastating. It is destroying their view of God. You may not realise what you are saying to them is "Well God wants you in this terrible situation, in fact He allows it to happen." That's not the God I know, my God loves me throughout everything, you see stumbling right in without listening (yes I have not forgot my original topic) is like throwing a grenade without watching were you are throwing it. You might hit or cause something you really shouldn't have. Listening allows us to identify where the real problem lies, look past just the words being said. Yes questions are to be asked but being calm, collected and peaceful will allow you to pass on the Gospel much easier then just shoving things you have heard in people's faces, Jesus or not.
I do realise at this point I should explain my God-blindfold, despite it's irrelevance to the challenge of today. A God-blindfold is this thing Christians appear to do by thinking everything is God. Now don't get me wrong everything IS God but when we immediately say "God did that" we neglect the time of day to see what He actually did and miss out on the amazing-ness that is His actions. In a situation where perhaps someone has offered you a job, we can easily go "God got me a job" which in all fairness is true but we leave it at that when it really goes much further than just that in what He has done. Now fair enough you could take this back to the beginning of time if you so want to but I think you get what I mean. It's not something that is terrible to have, it allows you to easily see God in everything and so I don't want to really annoy anyone who does easily see God's actions. It's commendable really, but it's a double edged sword really.
So I hope to leave with some food for thought in terms of what it is to actually listen, and that we should listen to people properly before jumping in with the evangelistic know-how we all contain.