An elderly lady was returning from a late night Bible study, and discovered, to her horror, a thief in her house. Desperate with fear, she shouted out, “Acts 2:38!!” (That text reads “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you, for the remission of sins…”). Much to her surprise, and relief, the thief froze in his tracts and remained motionless. She immediately called the police, and related everything that had just happened. The police arrived on the scene, cuffed the thief, and as they were leading him away, one of the officers asked him, “I don’t get it. Why did you freeze up like that? All the lady did was quote scripture to you.” The thief responded, “Scripture?!? She quoted Scripture? I thought she said she had an axe and two 38s!!” You know, sometimes it pays to listen closely to what is actually said!!
How many times have you thought that you heard someone say something, and it offended you? Later, you expressed that hurt and disappointment, only to discover that the speaker either did not say what you thought, or they did not intend to convey hurtful thoughts? Husbands and wives very often experience communication difficulty because of perception problems. One party accuses the other of saying something, and the other claims “I didn’t say that at all!” It would benefit relationships greatly if each partner would learn to truly listen. Has your spouse ever accused you of something like “The lights are on, but no one is home, when I am talking to you!” Well, if so, you need to pay attention when they are speaking!
A great part of communication is listening carefully. Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15). Now, on the surface, that sounds rather ludicrous doesn’t it? Doesn’t everyone have ears? What Jesus meant was that he was saying things, that, unless they were in tune with his train of thought, they would miss it!
On another occasion, Jesus said, “Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to my word” (John 8:43). Now, Jesus was not, as some suggest, saying that God would not allow them to understand. The next verse explains his meaning. Jesus said they could not understand him because they belonged to the Devil, and thought his thoughts! They were thinking on one level. Jesus was thinking on another, and what he had to say did not match their mentality! Their preconceived ideas, their priorities, their philosophy of things, prevented them from understanding what he was saying. Jesus was using terminology that his hearers used, so they assumed he was using those terms in the same way as they. But, He challenged them to truly listen, not just hear the words. The thing is, in Jesus’ case, when they finally “got it,” and understood what he was really saying, they did not like it, and they killed him.
It does not matter whether the issue is personal relationships, business, politics or theology. The art of listening is vital. You can improve your life, your relationships, and your understanding by becoming a better listener. Like the thief above, if we become better listeners, we may discover that people are not threatening us after all, and we can begin understanding them better. A better life will result.