“Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger”
The past four months of the coronavirus disruption has revealed something sad about the way we work through problems. Instead of being kind and seeking to understand one another, we barricade ourselves behind fortresses of arguments that are buttressed by some piece of data or someone’s personal story. It feels like we are reaching out over our bunkers and tossing grenades across the street at someone else’s fortified shelter, while they are firing at us. In the end, we’ve created visible wreckage and have only caused the other party to become even more deeply entrenched. I’ve watched this during the coronavirus pandemic, and now it’s happening with our dialog on race.
The frustration and anger among the black community (and among many of others as well) peaked with the killing of George Floyd. Since then, there has been a continual and often heated debate over what needs to be done to correct these recurring incidents of injustice. While I believe our lawmakers play a role, we won’t see sweeping and lasting change unless we the citizens have a change of heart. As I’ve talked with many members of our congregation who are black, they voice similar concerns. They don’t like the violent protests nor are they wanting the police forces dismantled. They aren’t asking people to join a radical political movement. But what I hear from each one is a common desire for people like me to understand what black Americans have experienced throughout their entire lives. Although they don’t encounter it every day nor with every white person, the reality is that they’ve been treated disrespectfully many times because of their skin color. And for many black women, they have suffered double indignities because of their gender.
Although I sincerely cannot recall ever mistreating someone because of their race, I confess that I have not sought to understand life from my black friends’ perspectives. After hours of conversations, my heart has been broken–broken because of the unjust pain they’ve endured, and broken because of my own blindness and silence.
In the book of James it says, “Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). It would do us all well to push pause on our social media posts and pull the fuse on our anger and do the first thing James says we must do: LISTEN. It’s been said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we speak. God make us this way because it takes a lot more to listen than it does to spout off our latest thoughts.
I’m not sure others really care about what we think about anything if we don’t start by showing we care enough to listen to them. The race issues will not be solved with our minds or mouths—it must begin at the heart level. I have hope because I know that this is where God does his greatest miracles.