A 2016 report by Barna suggests 84% of adults in America believe “there is a lot of anger and hostility between the different ethnic and racial groups in America today.”
Spend much time on social media and you’ll sadly see this statistic in play.
Not so long ago, I stumbled across an online conversation that quickly escalated into a fight of epic proportions between two young women—one white, one African American. They had started the conversation as friends (at least on Facebook), but by the end of their public discourse that was no longer the case.
I won’t get into many specifics, but the second commented on how some words were hurtful. Rather than listen, the first got defensive and proclaimed, “Are you calling me racist? I am not racist. My husband is from the Middle East.” Then several white friends felt the need to defend her honor by proclaiming her kind attributes and likewise insisting that she couldn’t be racist.
Much of the defense didn’t even make logical sense. But when combined with heated rhetoric, it resembled an accident along a major highway...only it lacked the ambulance to take the wounded to the hospital.
To make matters worse. The white woman regularly posts about her faith and her strong Christian values. But when push came to shove, she wouldn’t listen to someone’s perspective with whom she disagreed or even respond with compassion. I fear many of us are the same way.
One has only to look the book of James to see what the Bible says on this topic: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
And, just a few verses later: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless” (1:27).
I could go on, but I think almost all of us recognize the importance of listening. The harder part is putting this into practice, because it takes more than simple silence.
As Adam McHugh puts it in The Listening Life: “Listening is a service of the ear, the mind and the heart. Listening is an act of servanthood, and serving is hard.”
The importance of listening cannot be overstated, and this is true both when it comes to evangelism and racial reconciliation.
The organization Be the Bridge, founded by Latasha Morrison, is a great place to gain insight on racial reconciliation from a Christian perspective.
Here are four reminders about listening taken from Be the Bridge material.
- One of the most difficult things for many people is to listen to others who don't think like themselves.
- Don't get caught up in pride and being right, practice humility.
- Don't let political views drive you.
- Practice good listening skills—listen without speaking at times, ask questions for what you don't understand.
If we’ve peaked your curiosity, stay tuned! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a further look at the issue of racial reconciliation and the gospel.