who would have thought that listening is the first step on the path to love? It’s not an easy path, the climb is steep, the incline often sharp. No steps can be skipped over along the way. This journey is not for the faint of heart.
James said in chapter one, verse 19 – “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Quick to listen . . . and then learn to listen long . . . I need to listen not just with my ears but with my heart . . . I need to hear not just the words that are spoken, but the words that are not spoken as well. We all want to feel that we have been heard.
Listening allows me to learn about another person. I get to know them. I began to know another person in a way that I didn’t previously. I can know them more completely. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) This new knowledge paves the way for understanding.
It is understanding that opens the door for empathy to enter in. And when empathy arrives, her presence brings a new perspective. I am granted the grace to see the world through another’s eyes. The view is different than I have ever experienced before. I am humbled and enriched as I see the world in this new way. The gift of empathy is that I am able to feel and to share in another person’s pain.
“Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, . . . But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; . . . and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Then empathy invites compassion in. I am filled with compassion for this one I have been listening to and learning from. It is empathy which makes possible compassion. Compassion has no way in without empathy’s invitation.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14) “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9)
Compassion is a crucial step in the journey. It is compassion that gives birth to the miracle that is mercy. When I am able to feel compassion for another person, I will learn to minister to them with mercy.
“But in Your great mercy You did not put an end to them or abandon them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.” (Nehemiah 9:31) “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) “Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18)
It is out of mercy that forgiveness flows. Christ’s forgiveness frees me from the guilt of my sins and from the penalty of death attached to them. When I forgive others, I am relieved of the burden carrying a grudge against them becomes over time. I am set free. Forgiveness frees me and forgiveness frees those I forgive. Forgiveness releases both the giver and the receiver from the bondage in which unforgiveness holds them each captive.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) ” . . . Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? . . . Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
It is forgiveness that makes room for love to enter. Forgiveness opens the flood gates wide and lets love in! and love, well love is what? all you need? . . . makes the world go round? . . . conquers all?
I do know this about love. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
and this, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
it is love that is required in the greatest commandment. ” ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ ” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Two commandments requiring love. And the path that leads to love starts with listening. Listening leads to knowledge which makes possible understanding which ushers in empathy which invites compassion in which births mercy. Mercy makes a way for forgiveness to flow freely in, washing away wounds and preparing the place where love will come to live.
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” (John 15:9)
sincerely, Grace Day