The focus of Christianity is mainly to assist others in the society. In this light, Christians cannot offer support to others if they fail to have proper listening skills. In essence, Christians must always learn to listen to the stories of other people and through this, there is further growth in their relationship with God. Being a Christian is involving because the rest of the society looks up to believers, thinking that they are right in their ways of doing things. Thus, the art of Christian listening enlightens the 'listeners' in knowing the objectives and limits of their Christian roles. Christian service involves the provision of services to others by having good attitudes and listening well to their stories and insights. Additionally, there must be an expression of willingness to listen to others, and not an aggressive-kind of listening, but that which is all-inclusive and receptive to the potential insights of non-Christians (Hart, 1980). The art of Christian listening is a significant tool that sets Christians on the right path or direction to follow as they establish a stronger relationship with God.
Before studying about the art of Christian listening, I experienced an entirely different spiritual growth. Ignorance for lack of information characterized a more significant part of my spiritual life. I never knew that a Christian I should have a listening ear to others, but instead, I always sought clarifications and answers to disturbing questions from my fellow Christians. Also, I always despised non-believers as being unworthy and therefore I did not interact with them. Then, I was not putting Christian teachings and its values into practice, but instead, I was a theory-based Christian. I felt I lacked adequate Christian experience and knowledge to listen to other people's questions and provide responses to them. Later on, I learned that God could use our weaknesses to enable us to reach out to people through the change of our attitude. My spiritual journey took a different direction, and I developed qualities of a good listener. I listened with love and without having negative opinions or thoughts about others in the society. This is what Christianity ought to be, but not the previous type I used to express.
Thomas Hart sheds an enlightenment on Christian or spiritual guidance through his book The Art of Christian Listening. The book provides further insights and brings forth so many questions, for example why he refers to Christian listening as an art. Listening cannot come into existence through a natural means, but instead, it is a skill that is developed. Through nature, we are sinful beings because we failed to listen to the voice of God. Therefore, as human beings, we continually struggle to listen, and it forms part of our sanctification. However, we can ease the burden by creating in us the spirit or desire to offer Christian services to others by listening to their insights too. Additionally, Christian listening is a unique one because it must be done out of love for others (Hart, 1980). The message of the entire book is that Christians are to give themselves for them to receive blessings too. This is achieved by just taking time to listen to others with love.
In chapter one, Hart gives ways through which we can seek help and get connected to God. As a Christian, there are various ways through which I can get connected to God, and one of the ways is through communion with Jesus Christ by taking the holy communion (Hart, 1980). We may not have a real experience of God, but through Jesus, we get to know the ways of God. The incarnations are a show of God's love to humanity, and by that love, we received redemption from our sins. This chapter also reminds me that the body is the temple of God, and therefore, just as the temple is kept holy, I have no excuse than to keep it holy for the service of the Lord. In chapter two, the real meaning of a Christian helper is extracted, and this helps Christians know their limits on how to interact with the rest. In particular, a Christian helper must be ready to cooperate with anybody, whether a believer or a non-believer. Also, the relationship of a Christian with other people can be strengthened through the expression of love or learning to listen well and knowing that listening is done as a companion (Hart, 1980). In this scenario, companionship implies that the listener is obliged to finding help from the other person.
The Christian walk is regularly faced with various challenges, for example, psychological and social problems. Often, when an individual feels discouraged along the journey, he or she requires a helper to pull him back into the right path of Christian walk. Moreover, the levels of spirituality vary and keep growing in every Christian. God is often delighted when He watches His children yearn to know the truth. At such moments, spiritual directors may offer assistance to the faint hearted and those who have become hopeless. Personally, through the guidance of spiritual directors such as pastor, I have been able to experience a continuous growth as a Christian, and there is always new information that I learn daily. Therefore, Christians must learn to depend on spiritual directors and counselors for them to have a sufficient growth in Christianity.
Chapter four reminds me that for efficient Christian growth, we must portray the real image of Jesus Christ. Just as Christ did, Christians should also live by the teachings that we give to others. Through this, there is further growth in the Christian life. Today, it has become difficult for many Christians to live the life lived yet we are told to be holy just as our Father in heaven is. Indeed, being like Jesus and doing as he did has remained a challenge to many Christians. Chapter five goes ahead to ascertain that prayer Is equally significant for a good relationship with God and others (Hart, 1980). Invocation grants us the opportunity to commune with God. It is a medium of direct communication with God. Again, Christians can extend their listening to others by offering prayers for others. Regarding prayers, we should know the reasons for making prayers. Today, most Christians pray only when they are in need, but we are reminded to pray always without ceasing because it strengthens our relationship with God. Besides, a Christian helper must also intercede for others in prayer. When a person watches another pray, then this would be a motivating factor for others to pray (Hart, 1980). Christians should be an instrument or medium through which others can get connected to God.
Some choices must be made in Christian life. Living a full Christian life calls for an individual to make certain sacrifices. Maintaining a Christian life involves choosing all that which pertains to the Lord as Jesus did. Christ was a replica of the choices that God requires us to make. Even though God has granted us the free will to make choices, He goes ahead to say that we should make decisions that lead to eternal life but not death. Such as the choices that Christ made until He resisted all the temptations that came his way and He lived a holy and pure life. Thus, we are called upon as Christians to choose things that are pleasing unto Him (Hart, 1980). One sure way that can enable people to make good choices is through constant prayers and waiting for a confirmation from God that for sure, the decision made is the right one. I have also earned that living a good Christian life is not easy. There are stumbling blocks of pitfalls along the road (Hart, 1980). For example, some people may get discouraged, other peoples' behavior may inhibit others from maintaining an active Christian relationship with others. Nonetheless, nothing is impossible before God; He can make us be overcomers of all the challenges that may affect us.
An effective Christian listening is achieved depending on how an individual prepares himself or herself. For example, a Christian cannot respond to a biblical question if he or she has not done studies within the bible. In other words, one of the essential ways of Christian preparation, especially for spiritual directors is through reflection and familiarity with the scripture (Hart, 1980). Other means of preparation include undertaking theological studies. Adequate preparation of a Christian equips him or her with the right content to disseminate to others. There are typical situations that may push a Christian helper into going an extra mile to find more ways of offering assistance to the victims. In handling the unique circumstances, a Christian helper must provide critical thinking first, so that he or she arrives at the right conclusion or solution of the matter at hand (Hart, 1980). There are also extreme situations whereby the individual being helped seems to forget about God (Hart, 1980). In the same manner, such circumstances deserve questions that would boggle the mind of the victim, so as he or she thinks, the answers shall be manifested. In other words, a Christian helper must not solve every problem through prayers or by first referring to God. In talking about the gift of the needy, the main lesson I get to understand is that a hand that gives, shall also receive. A Christian helper finds more benefits from the helping relationship, and the best way of giving is through listening to others (Hart, 1980).
In brief, a Christian life involves listening to others and helping them in their times of need. People may seek answers for spiritually-disturbing questions, or some may lack some materials. It should be noted that it is not just an ordinary listening but rather a Christian one. The implication is that a Christian helper must do it out of full love and avoidance of aggressive responses. In doing this, Christians must live by what they teach, always following Christ examples and praying continuously. Moreover, Christians must learn about various ways of handling different people that are faced with multiple problems. The art of Christian listening is one sure way that strengthens Christian relationship.
Hart, T. N. (1980). The art of Christian listening. New York: Paulist Press.
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