“Let the person who has ears listen!” Then he added, “Take care what you listen to. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more.” (Mark 4:23-24)
As we move forward to the end of the year, we have some choices to make about the words we say and the words we listen to.
When we listen to words that promote and escalate fear, violence, division and hate, when we listen to the vilification of whole groups of people, when we listen and rejoice at anger, rudeness and name-calling, we are listening to verbal violence, to terrorism of the tongue.
These words denigrate the words of Jesus. These words revile His image. They cheapen God’s grace and mercy, and belittle Christ’s sacrifice.
“The most important is, ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. So love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Terrorism works by terrorizing people – by keeping them too terrified to continue on with their way of lives. Terrorism works by turning people to focus on reckless rhetoric, naming people as the problem instead of calling out the problem as the problem.
“Ah, but who is my neighbor?” asked the scholar, hoping to make himself appear smarter than Jesus. (Luke 10:29)
In first century Israel, Hebrew people considered Samaritans an enemy. They were of a different religion, ethnicity and culture, and even though they lived in the same land, they did not assimilate with Jewish people. In response to the question “who is my neighbor,” Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).
“You shall have the same rule for the foreigner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 24:22)
Today, our neighbors may be black or Hispanic, Asian/NHPI, Native American or European (cuz let’s face it, white isn’t a race), Jewish or Muslim, Christian or atheist, Buddhist or Hindu, gay or straight. What words do we use to describe “them?” Do we classify “them” all the same? Do we fear “them?” Do we regard “them” as a problem?
Have we taken the time to know any one of “them” as individuals? Do we know his story? Do we know her family? Do we understand his struggles? Do we have compassion for her pain, as Jesus did for the Samaritan woman at the well?
When we speak words of grace, encouragement, compassion and love, we mirror His image. We honor the words He spoke. We allow His Spirit to use us for God’s good pleasure. We lift others and become His heart, His hands and feet. We put aside our own small agendas and take on His greater mission.
“So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel,” declares the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 47:21-22, Matthew 25:34-40)