“Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” -- Matthew 7:12 (CSB)
Have you ever tried to do something for someone and it completely bombed? Maybe you bought your wife a gift, or tried to “sweep her off her feet” with a surprise vacation, only to discover she didn’t want to leave home in the first place? Of course, there are times when these things may simply be a matter of miscommunication. But, if we are being honest, we recognize that it may point to a lack of knowing — a lack of understanding of our spouse and what makes them tick. Jesus’ Golden Rule stands as the culmination of the Sermon on the Mount.1 The command is a general rule on how we should relate to others, and an explanation of the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Many of us hold to this rule generally, but have little understanding of the particular application of it in our day to day lives. How do we love someone? What does it look like to love them well? This rule tells us that the more deeply we know someone, the more we are enabled to properly love them. Love and knowledge go hand in hand. Without love, there is no knowledge; and without knowledge, there is no love. This is where listening comes in.
What kinds of things should we listen for in order to love others well? Here are four categories to consider:
- Values - What do they love and why? I love basketball. A lot! This is evident by how I behave during March Madness. If you ask me why I love basketball you would find in the answer a value system that ranges from time with my dad and brothers, to playing basketball as a kid, to my genuine enjoyment of understanding the game itself.
- Perceptions - How does this person perceive their world? How do they interpret the actions of others? How do they interpret the good and hard circumstances of life in light of their relationship with God?
- Emotions - What are they feeling? Are they happy because they got that job they were hoping for, or discouraged because they can’t seem to move forward from the relationship that just ended? Discovering what they are feeling and meeting them in their emotions demonstrates that you value and love them.
- Commitments - What are their non-negotiables? What deep commitments have they built their lives around? Are they committed to family obligations? Or, perhaps they have a keen drive to be the best at their job?
As you move closer into their world, you will be enabled to love them more and better. Listening is much more than collecting data. It is how our hearts are knitted together. The sharing of our lives with one another in normal conversations allows us to both reflect on who God is (a God who hears and cares) and understand more about him.
1Jonathan Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 267-268.
Joseph has years of ministry experience providing soul care to a variety of age groups as an Education Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Associate Pastor.