When our two children, Jaclyn and John, were preschoolers, I often had to gently turn their little faces toward me and say, “Listen to Mommy. Let me see your eyes and your listening ears.” Of course, their minds could be elsewhere, but the starting point of teaching them to listen well was to get their attention and have them focus on me, their mother, and my words of instruction.
Listening well requires turning our attention off ourselves and onto others. We all have trouble at times focusing our attention where God wants it to focus. In a world with ever-increasing distractions, listening well is key for all who desire to lead others in serving Christ. Listening involves removing the focus from ourselves, and valuing others as Jesus did (v. 3). Philippians 2:3–5 describes Jesus as a model of humility. First, we see that He listened to the will of His Father (vv. 5–7). Notice how this humble position changes both His relationship to God and to others. Listening and following Jesus’ example means we count others as more significant than ourselves (v. 3) and enables us to look out for the interests of others (v. 4). Listening well may mean silencing our phones and turning our full attention to those Christ is asking us to serve.
Verse 5 places this listening in context: “In your relationships with one another . . .” Relationship is an important word. Living in true relationship requires humble sacrifice. God sacrificed His Son Jesus for us. Can we sacrifice our own thoughts and opinions at times simply by listening well? But verse 14 takes listening a step further. We are to listen well and resist grumbling or arguing. Following Jesus, we are to exalt God and not ourselves (v. 9).
>> We all need our heavenly Father’s gentle prodding through Scripture to turn our focus on Him rather than our smart calendars, to-do lists, or even our desire to be heard. Consider how well you listen to others and how your listening well represents Christ’s love through you.