Canadian comedian and actor, Jonny Harris, is a good listener.
Check out his work as the host of the reality TV show Still Standing, which ran on CBC in Canada from 2015 to 2020. Each episode was built around the stories that people would tell Harris while he visited with them, stories about life in their “still standing” small town or village. He listened carefully, and then, on a special night, wove all of those stories into one single story about the community in which they lived. On the television show you can see these people in the audience, as Harris tells that story.
While he speaks, their eager faces seem to say that they are falling more deeply in love with their community, their stories, and one another. All of that is possible because Harris started with the good work—the art—of listening.
Pastor Church Resources, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church, has been a big fan of listening for all of its almost 40 years. We’ve been teaching people the value of listening, and sharing tools to help people to listen well. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary next year we’ll tell you about some of them. Today we’ll simply share some of what lies behind our love of listening:
1. Listening is what God does.
Listening is very likely a key part of the perfect communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And in the work of Creation the Father offered that gift to all of humanity by creating a space in which we could listen to Him and he could listen to us. We get to be like God in a powerful way, then, when we listen deeply to one another. We bear God’s image.
2. Listening is a way to mirror God’s love.
Listening is oriented to the thriving of the other. It is a gift of hospitality and self-sacrifice. It is me setting myself aside in a way that reflects the loving work of Christ on our behalf.
3. Listening reveals God’s work in me.
Listening is a way to reveal the Fall-reversing work of the Holy Spirit. When I listen well to another person I reveal that God is up to something good in me, that he has shifted my focus so that it is now more aimed at him and at others rather than at myself.
4. Listening says, “You matter to God and to me.”
Listening enables people to feel heard and, as a result, valued. This is what we learn while we watch Jonny Harris in “Still Standing”. In the case of Christians, when someone listens to our thoughts, joys, and concerns, we feel heard and our appetites are whetted for all of the perfections to come-- when Christ will establish the new heaven and the new earth, when he will perfect his new community.
You can probably think of more reasons to value listening. And maybe you can also imagine yourself listening to others so well that they too fall more deeply in love with their community, their Story, and one another.