Are you listening?

Over the past 8 months, people have been doing a lot of talking. From Ferguson to Baltimore, there have been a wide variety of opinions about what happened, what should have happened, how people should react, and how people should not react. Now you may have friends or people in your social media sphere that have been directly involved with has been happening around America since Ferguson, but aside from one friend who has participated in a protest, I don’t follow anyone who is or was closely involved to any of the recent events. That being said, my feeds have been filled with commentary on whatever the most current event is. On top of that the majority of the people in my social media feeds are white.

Photo Credit: daguenther via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: daguenther via Compfight cc

Recently, I began to notice something. There are many of us who have formed opinions and will freely comment or even make light of a situation where we have no first hand knowledge or experience. I recently shared on a friend’s blog that I have come to realize that I grew up in a place of privilege in America. By that I don’t mean a home of great wealth, but instead I am not a person that is typically profiled in a negative way. I am a white middle class American. I am allowed to go my own way without any suspicion by those in authority. Most of my friends and the people I follow on social media are like me. We do not have first hand knowledge of racial stereotypes or been subject to racial profiling. Still there is a desire to comment, criticize, or even joke about the events happening in places like Baltimore.

While there is much talk, what doesn’t seem to be happening is much listening. James writes this in his letter, “ Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” [1] I am disappointed that many in the church have chosen not to heed this advice. I don’t have much to say about what has happened because it is outside my realm of experience. But I can tell you that people are hurting. If you listen you will hear it. I hear it from my friends who have lived in a world where they have been suspected merely because they are black. When they speak about what’s happening now and what has happened to them in the past, there is hurt and frustration. We still live in a world where people are judged by the color of their skin, and unfortunately many in the church have chosen to ignore this. Instead of being quick to listen, we are quick to speak. We are quick to pass judgment and offer unhelpful advice and solutions.

The tension in Baltimore is subsiding, but this will not be the last time that something like this happens. I encourage you next time something happens to not be quick to speak in judgment or criticism of those expressing their frustration with the system. Instead, listen to them. See if you can hear their hurts. Ask them to explain why they feel that way. I think that will change the way you choose to speak after that. There are many problems and many sides to these problems. In the middle of all of these problems and issues are hurting people whom we should be caring for and standing with because that is what our God does. He heard the cries of his people an bondage and sent someone to rescue. Our God listens, let us be a people that listen as well.

1. James 1:19, Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation.

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