Jon Zens on being “quick to hear”

I struggle with being “quick to speak” against the direction of Scripture which tell us to “be quick to hear, and slow to speak” in James 1:19

The following is a section from the article Assembly Life by Jon Zens which deals specifically with this issue. I found it very insightful:

In light of the exhortation for each of us to be “quick to hear,” what are some vital attitudes that we must cultivate in our body relationships?

1. We must be open to learn from brethren in various traditions. We all tend to stick to some party-line and turn our heads away from information outside of our comfort zone. A.N. Groves wrote in 1833 concerning his relationship with J.N. Darby, “I do not think we ought to propose to be modeled unlike every sect, but simply to be like Christ; let us neither seek nor fear a name. I wish rather to have from every sect what every sect may have from Christ” (Roy Coad, A History of the Brethren Movement, pp. 114-115).

Are we willing to “listen” to multiple sources and discern from them what might help us discover the mind of Christ? Are we really open to be challenged by others to search the Scriptures and see what is indeed so? Thomas Dubay notes in this regard: “Since no one of us mortals, affected as we are with original sin, is perfectly pure in his desire for truth, no one of us is exempt from some degree of close-mindedness. It is only our God who is truth than can cure our reluctance to embrace all of his truth, however he speaks it” (“Communication in Community,” Searching Together, Winter, 1985, p. 11).

2. “We need to be humble,” says Dubay, “small in our own estimation. Finding the solution to a mathematical problem is possible without humility, but finding God’s will is impossible without this virtue. James 4:6 tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace (and light) to the humble” (“Communication,” p. 11). Whenever a group of believers bathed in humility gather together, great things can be expected; but, as James 3:16 notes, where there is “envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” The truly humble put others ahead of themselves. They pay attention to what they hear from others.

3. We must always have a “willingness to be changed by what is going to be said (without, of course, sacrificing genuine principles). One listens wholly only if he is willing to modify his present position if the evidence warrants it. People who are set in their thoughts and determined not to change their behavior do not listen to contrary evidences (Dubay, p. 11). If we confess that we do not know anything as we ought, then we will be open to new light from our brethren. We must listen to possible new evidence that has escaped our attention. As Eller noted, the church must always be open-ended toward God’s truth in Christ.

4. We must “grow in awareness that the person speaking is important, even precious, “God’s beloved” (Ro 1:7). We pay attention to important people. To the proud person others are not important and so he is not inclined to take them seriously. Even more, we value the opinions of those we love. If I do not really care what my brother thinks, I had better doubt that I love my brother” (Dubay, p. 11). I have seen so many cases in assemblies where those who articulate things with razor-sharp logic bulldoze over the little person, and pooh-pooh any concerns they have. You may think that a question or concern coming from another is immature, or ill-timed, or very low on your list of priorities, but if you really love that person you must give your ears and heart to that fellow-believer who is precious to Christ. We must highly esteem the input of every part of the body, or we run the risk of missing the voice of Jesus in our midst. In Christ’s body we are instructed to heap more honor on those parts that seem to be weaker and less honorable (1Co 12:22 -24).


About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

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