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Quick to Listen

James 1:19-20

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: 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.

I have never been very good at holding my tongue. I have always been quick to speak rather than quick to listen, and I get angry pretty fast. I can hide it, but it’s still there. That’s why this verse sticks with me in all seasons of life, no matter where I go in my walk with the Lord. I’ve had so many times in my life where I’ve spewed out what James describes as a verbal forest fire and absolutely damaged relationships. It’s not often but when it happens, it’s devastating. At first, I feel proud of myself for defending what I think is right or for putting someone in their place, but then I usually come down to earth and realize that Christ wouldn’t have spoken that way to me…even when I deserved it. I don’t believe God intends for us to exact verbal justice like that. Vengeance is His, after all.

Not everyone struggles with anger like I do. Some of you are blessed with amazing listening capabilities, and the world needs more of you. Some of you truly take in what others say and patiently wait your turn to add to the conversation or happily exist in the room without needing to make any speeches or earn any applause for your thoughts. I commend that humility. For those of you who have learned to turn the other cheek, I especially applaud you. It’s not instinct. It’s not safe to live that way. It’s far too Christ-like for comfort, and it’s exactly what Christ has called us to do. But even if you don’t struggle with anger like I do, there’s a lot to learn from these verses.

I think the three most important things that I’ve learned—am learning—in relation to these verses are...

  1. You’re far more valuable as a listener than a speaker
  2. If you’re angry about something concerning yourself, it’s not something to be proud of
  3. Your opinions don’t matter more than God’s truth

To elaborate a little more, I always think I have answers that could help someone. I think that I can talk someone out of a poor decision, or I can reason someone into seeing my point of view. But people really need someone to listen. You can never really speak into someone’s soul if you don’t take the time to really hear them. The Spirit won’t talk over you. He’ll wait for you to quiet down. It’s not a Spirit-led conversation until you’re listening to others and listening for God’s voice.

There’s a big difference between being angry over wrong done to you and wrong done to others. God wants us to be angry about the brokenness in this world. Some things are so against the goodness of God, it should stir up a great sense of injustice. To act out of a righteous anger isn’t an excuse to defend ourselves per say, it’s an obligation to defend others and God’s goodness.

And finally, no one desperately needs the saving words of Alana Bradley. No one needs to hear my wonderful opinions or my interpretations of Scripture. Even now, I hope you focus on the Scripture more than what I’m writing. I think we get caught up in our own creativity, our individuality; these are things that can be celebrated in moderation but are often put on the throne where Christ belongs. This world needs less of our own words and far more of God’s Word.

I feel that right now some of us believe we have cause to be angry. The world looks so different and things feel so uncertain right now. Perhaps we think we have all the answers, all of the solutions to the problems, or a perfect understanding of the situation. I encourage you (and myself) to find ways to slow down our words, really listen to those around us, and make space to hear God.

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