|Volume 17 Number 11 November 2015||
Gary C. Hampton
Love will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). This is partly accomplished through forgiveness. Christians forgive because God sent His Son to die so that we might be forgiven (Colossians 2:12-13; Ephesians 4:32).
True love includes a readiness to forgive, like that displayed by Jesus when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Of course, they still had to repent, but Jesus had already exhibited a willingness to forgive before they acknowledged their sins and turned away from them by putting Him on in baptism (Acts 2:22-23, 36-38). Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Stephen exhibited the same characteristic as his Lord when he was being stoned to death. Luke reports that while he was being stoned, “he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin’” (Acts 7:54-60).
Such a forgiving attitude will cause brothers to go in search of their straying brother in hope of getting him to come home to God in repentance. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Those who are spiritual will humbly seek to restore them and will gladly help to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). This is especially true of the shepherds who watch over the flock, which is one reason that Christians ought to obey them (Hebrews 13:17).
“And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). Notice, special care should be taken lest the one seeking to restore a brother is caught in Satan’s web.
Ronald D. Reeves
Occasionally, I center my attention on what impacts the internal integrity of the church, especially with respect to what impacts the fellowship and unity of a congregation. Accordingly, our attention is now directed to a brief discussion of “listening.”
To listen is “to hear with thoughtful attention.” Though simply said, the implications are far-reaching in the context of fellowship and unity within a local congregation.
“Hearing” involves actively entertaining an idea for its adoption and promotion. If one were either closed-minded, prejudiced or biased with respect to an idea, then one would not be able to actively entertain the prospect of adopting and promoting the idea. This state of mind qualifies one as not “hearing,” without which one fails to be “listening.”
To listen requires the accompaniment of an attendant fact that more specifically defines the manner of action involved in the “hearing” required in the act of “listening.” This is evidenced by the fact that to listen is “to hear with.”
The companion idea that more specifically defines “hearing” is “thoughtful attention.” Accordingly, without its presence, one clearly fails to be characterized by the qualities demanded in the definition expressed by Webster.
“Attention” involves the application of the mind to an object or thought so that there is a selective narrowing or focusing of receptivity. Simply said, “attention” requires one to practice open-mindedness and to gradually go through a process of selection as one decides what is worthy of his reception. Additionally, the “attention” is to be “thoughtful.” It should be characterized by carefully reasoned thinking that reflects unselfish concern and the ability to anticipate the needs of others. Accordingly, if one were either to approach an idea with a closed mind or fail to carefully reason through a proposition, focusing only on the interests, concerns and needs of self rather than those of others, cannot be characterized as the hearer spoken of by Webster in the definition of “listen.” Simply said, one who chooses not to practice “thoughtful attention” cannot accurately claim to be listening to others in the strict sense of the term.
The Bible repeatedly admonishes children of God to hear and therefore to be listeners. “He who has an ear, let him hear” (Revelation 2-3). If a congregation hopes to prosper, it must have healthy fellowship and unity. I am firmly convinced that healthy fellowship and unity require good listening on the part of the entire membership, especially those who are influential in the congregation and in the community. In the pursuit of healthy fellowship and unity, good listening must therefore be practiced by each member who has an active interest in the work and prosperity of the congregation. On occasion, we may possibly leave ourselves open to the charge of not truly listening to others. I encourage each of us to think seriously about what it means to be a good listener and to seek the courage to practice it. Without such, we cannot attain the quality of fellowship and unity that will well serve our congregation for years to come.
If we become good listeners, then multiple blessings may be showered upon us. Good listeners have opportunities to better understand those with whom they deal and to better understand challenging themes and practical problems. Good listeners will invariably be more successful in efforts to employ inductive and deductive reasoning processes, thereby securing a greater measure of truth more quickly. Good listeners have a greater potential in evangelistic efforts. Good listeners may be better able to soften hardened attitudes where others have failed. Good listeners demonstrate care and concern for those with whom they communicate. Good listeners gain greater opportunities to better develop patience as a common trait of their personal Christian characters. Consequently, good listeners truly earn the privilege of setting forth their wisdom gained through study and a lifetime of valued experience. Brethren, listening is a valuable characteristic. May we excel in the art of listening so that our message bears appropriate weight with those who need it so much. Without those who listen, there is truly no need of speaking!
[Editor’s Note: Jesus Christ repeatedly challenged His audiences to “hear” His words with the implication of making the appropriate application to their lives (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; 15:10; 21:33). The inspired prophet Isaiah made a distinction between those who hear the Word of God and do not obey it from those who upon hearing the Word of God practice it in their lives. Our Lord Jesus applied that prophecy to His auditors (Matthew 13:14-16), condemning many but commending His apostles. Today, every soul urgently needs to hear the Word of God whereby saving faith may result. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV). Without hearing the Word of God and applying it to one’s life, redemption from past sins is not possible, and neither is it even possible for the child of God to attain God’s ongoing approval. Redemption and the long pilgrimage to a city whose builder and maker is God depends upon hearing the Word of God and making the unending use of it in one’s life. ~ Louis Rushmore]