How to listen or, “I love you and I’ll shut up now”

In our Community Group, we recently talked about how a big part of being missional family is sharing a common story.

The only thing is that in the family of God, everyone but Jesus is adopted and relatively new to each other. We don’t necessarily share a lot of life experiences or memories, shaping us into similar individuals. All of us are quite different as a result. When life stories stay secret, the level of familial intimacy suffers.

We all do, however, get to be counted as members of the family of God, which has a family story reaching back to eternity. That story becomes our own, in that it affects and shapes us in a profound way.

In such a big way, in fact, that there are elements of the story which become the norm in the familia Dei.

Listening like family

Be careful about offering advice

Their story is more complex than you could ever pick up on in one sitting. You’re advice about reconciling relationships, kicking addictions, or how right they were to act that way is not necessary in that moment. It’s okay for there to be some silence, don’t fill it with half-baked advice.

Don’t justify their sin for them

Sometimes you just have to let them confess what the Spirit has convicted them of. Even if you don’t think it’s so bad, don’t say that or they won’t confess again in fears that their sin isn’t bad enough. Listen to them. It’s okay for there to be silence, don’t fill it with your self-justifying knee-jerks.

Be careful with sarcasm

It’s uncomfortable to tell a group of people about your eating disorder, your porn problem, your uncle who molested you, or your closet fears about losing faith in Christ. It’s also uncomfortable to hear it. It’s okay for there to be silence, don’t fill it with your immature sneers.

Don’t zone out

just…duh

Ask clarifying questions

Show that you are engaged by asking questions that show it. Interrupt them, if needed, in order to better understand a part of their story. You want to understand them.

Ask questions to lovingly lead to an understanding of how their story makes sense in light of the gospel

This takes love. This takes discernment. Not everyone should engage in this. This shouldn’t be forced. When you love your brother or sister sharing their story, and are beginning to understand their story, labor with them to understand it better together in light of the gospel. No formula for this one. Just good old fashioned wisdom.

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