Listening is among the most basic of relational skills. Yet, it does well to revisit it often.
In a family, listening carries different connotations than it does in the classroom or counseling session. In a classroom, students listen to acquire new knowledge or to pass a test. A counselor listens to fix psychological issues in a client and to get paid. Listening in a family is often to understand for the sake of obedience to mom and dad.
Like any good dad, God the Father has a pattern of communication that his children can expect from him. The writer of Hebrews would say that, for starters, we should listen to Jesus because “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1).
In the family of God, we listen to God’s Son, Jesus, the Word of God.
We graciously have recorded in Scripture the story of God’s Son on earth. Regularly listening to Jesus in Scripture by reading, meditating, and hearing the story of God is how we become obedient children of God.
Yet Jesus gives us this word of caution, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). In other words, the whole Bible — Old and New Testament — all point to Jesus, the Son of God, for eternal life; to read the Bible without that framework is to miss the point.
In Scripture we are listening to our Elder Brother, Jesus, for what the family of God is all about. How does it expand through adoption, rebirth, and marriage? What are the family stories? What is the Father like? What is required of me to be part of the family? Can my friends be part of the family, too?
We can also listen God the Father when we talk to him.
The best part of the family of God is that the Father is not absent, hard, or passive. We are “beloved children” of God (Eph. 6:21), therefore we can approach our Father with confidence with all of our requests and questions and thanks — no matter how petty. But beyond our talking, we can listen to his talking. Jesus showed us that a child of God can talk to and hear from the Father through prayer.
So we pray as a family, to hear from the Father.
God also speaks through our brothers and sisters in the family.
The family of God expands when the family Spirit indwells someone who was previously not in the family. Scripture illustrates this process like it’s getting born again, with a genetic code–with certain dispositions and behaviors–to match the new family. This Spirit knows the very mind of God and he lives inside every brother and sister (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
It would do us well, then, to take seriously the words from our brothers and sisters in the family of God; particularly those who have been in the family longer and those who have been appointed to take care of the younger siblings and instruct them until the Eldest Brother comes back.
Sometimes, our brothers and sisters are wrong and are not speaking the Father’s will. Which is why we always refer to the Word of God also.
We image a Good Listener, too.
God himself, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is a good listener. The Father listens to our pleas, the Son perfectly obeys the Father, and the Spirit tells us all that the Father is thinking. To listen well is a characteristic of the family of God. And don’t you feel loved when you are listened to? Listening with sincerity is a family trait that we would do well to cultivate, as we listen to love.