“He who has ears, let him hear.” – Matthew 11, Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Luke 4, Luke 8, Luke 14
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.” – Revelation 2:29
Jesus, no fewer than six times in the gospels, utters his now-famous dictum, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Here is Jesus as the grizzled old man he never got to be, with a distinct rural accent of unknown provenance. “Don’t you have the sense God gave you? You got wax in them ears?”
These are words you say to people who aren’t listening. Or to people who seem to be listening, but on whom one’s words seem to be having no effect, because they keep ignoring your extremely sound advice.
Ever felt that you were talking and talking and getting nowhere? Or, conversely: ever felt that you have truly listened to someone, but they stubbornly say “I don’t feel heard” because you happen to disagree with them?
What is the difference between listening, and really hearing? What is the difference between being heard, and getting your way?
These conversations play out (or flame out, or peter out) in churches, in living rooms, in board rooms, in marital beds. Here are some other questions that might help unpack the previous ones as you ponder the stalemate of your last go-round:
Did you invite God into the conversation?
Did you strike a balance of talking and listening?
Did you each allow silence to overtake you–for God to get a word in edgewise?
Are you humble, and open to a grain (or entire field!) of truth in what they are saying?
Did you listen for a truth from a Source beyond your own ego and feelings, a principle you need to stick to even if the siren song of harmony with your talking buddy threatens to undermine your integrity? Sometimes, real listening creates more conflict.
The only other place in the Bible Jesus’ dictum appears, besides the Gospels, is in the Book of Revelation. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.” And, using our ears well, She speaks to the board of directors, to your teenager or aging parent, to your longtime spouse–and to you and me.
God, You gave me two ears and one mouth. May I listen twice as much as I speak–and may the voice I hear best be Yours. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.