Dear Church, It’s Time to Listen | Sojourners

Dear Church, It’s Time to Listen

Dear church,

I thought of you today, when I was cleaning my kitchen and I posted to my Twitter account, “I want my heart to be quiet and my mouth to be quieter. God help me.”

Social media, and Twitter especially, has become a place where people of all beliefs can come together for conversations about all manner of things, from men’s rompers to views on abortion.

And from our worship leaders and in our pulpits, we hear the word of God for the people of God again, this time in person. So we’re constantly processing, constantly asking what God is saying to us, constantly asking who we should be as an institution, as the body of Christ.

Sometimes, though, we seem to get ahead of ourselves. In all our talk about the “least of these,” in all our online arguments about for whom and how we should care, we get lost in the actual arguments rather than the good work of daily ministry, daily love.

I can see you, church, trying to find the balance, trying to make a way for future generations. I can see you struggling to win the argument, struggling to stay tethered to the true ways of Jesus in a society that isn’t always sure of what it really believes.

In a world full of opinions, platforms, and fan bases, it’s easy to get sucked into our ability to pontificate any chance we get, on any subject we so desire.

Perhaps the hardest work of all is the act of listening, of learning, of walking beside instead of charging ahead.

Because I am a staff member at my own church, I have seen the people who live behind the scenes. They are the people who care for the poor, who spend time with the people no one else will spend time with. They hold things together, they make a way for what happens on Sundays in front of the congregation. They make sure we have enough coffee for Sunday morning, they check to make sure the doors are locked at night, they bring food for the city’s food pantry, they pray for the sick.

These are people that hold the line from denomination to denomination, the people who do the work on both sides of our faith divides.

In many faith traditions, meditation or contemplation are important parts of belief, practiced daily to keep us tethered to the reality of God in our lives. So maybe we need to return to some of those quiet actions, to those behind-the-scenes deeds that teach us how to act when we’re out interacting with others.

We know that Jesus withdrew and sat in the quiet. We know that he valued communion with nature and with God on a regular basis, and we know that sometimes, he valued silence in his interactions with others.

We can learn a lot from listening. We can learn a lot from quiet prayer. We can learn a lot by becoming people who walk alongside those we say we are working so hard to care for. And while we walk beside them, we can practice respectful silence, so that as we move forward we might better know how to care for them. We might better know what it was like for Jesus to care for people.

Dear church,

We have come a long way, and we know that in many ways we’re not there yet. Sometimes we show the raw and beautiful love of God, and sometimes we end up hurting, belittling, even endangering the cultures and lives of the people around us.

But we can be better. We can be quieter. We can listen when we should talk, and we can walk beside when we could walk ahead.

Let’s choose the way that Jesus would have chosen.

Let’s choose the way of shalom.