Attentive listening is an act of love

Before I became a Christian, one of the concepts I least understood was love. At that time, I vaguely thought that love is a feeling and also a state of falling into certain emotions. However, this definition of love can cause some problems. First of all, human feelings and emotions can easily change. Therefore, if love is a feeling of liking someone, it is very easy to be disappointed and experience deterioration. Because of this misunderstanding of love, we often see on TV or media the word ‘love’ being used in an erroneous way. Someone who failed to perform his role as a head of a household by ignoring his wife and children could still claim that he loved his family.

Love in the Bible is a specific action to fill the need of others and commitment to do that. That is the core of Corinthians chapter 13 and is the background where it is possible to love the enemy. In this line, listening to others is a very important act of love. Most people have wounds in their hearts because others ignored them. When they are young, they suffer because their parents did not fill their need of attention. When they become grown up they often feel that there is no one who pays attention to them. Then, they meet someone special who pays attention to them and they get married. However, the attention does not last long and he/she goes back to the state being ignored and being disregarded by their spouses. Therefore, listening to others is a specific act of love.

Listening is not easy, however. It is known that most people understand only 20% of the message from a conversation. This could be due to our natural tendency to be distracted or due to a string of flashing thoughts which started from the speaker’s words. Even when we are listening to the other person’s words, we have a habit of organizing our responses in our minds. Therefore, to obey Lord’s commandment to love each other, we need to practice listening skills deligently.

First of all, let’s listen fully to our spouses. Let’s make an effort to read the emotions behind their words and do not try to prepare a response or counter-argument. Next, let’s listen to children. Do not respond superficially but respond with love toward children who seek our attention. When we listen faithfully to children’s words, they will not be out there in search of someone who will.

More than anything, let’s be wonderful listening ears during house church sharing time. Since the sharing time is not one-to-one conversation, it takes more effort to listen. Let’s resist the temptation to interrupt after listening to only the first words or to wander into the world of your own thought. Let’s make eye contact with the speaker, support him/her with your emotions to match his/her feelings. This is the best act of love we can perform in house church.

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