We sat by the fire in the lodge, the place where members of the university community often gathered to socialize, and talked of spiritual things. My heart was full of God's love for this man, my friend and a colleague of my husband's at the research station where we lived and worked.
He was speaking (it was his turn). I was letting him talk, making eye contact, nodding occasionally to encourage him, waiting for my chance to reply. He was a follower of Zen, and eager to share what he believed with me. At the moment, he was saying something about the Oneness of the Universe.
I was just as eager to share about Jesus, but I waited, praying, thinking about what I could say next. Something that might reach into his spirit and open his eyes to the Truth of the Gospel.
Then a third party joined the conversation. The Still, Small Voice said to me, "Are you listening to him?"
"Well, yes, Lord. I'm listening and waiting for a chance to speak about You."
"No," He said. "Are you LISTENING to him?" (emphasis His)
That moment--that question--changed the way I "do" evangelism forever.
What a concept! We should LISTEN to people we care about for Jesus' sake.
When I began to listen to my friend, three things happened.
1) I realized, with deep shame, that I was treating him with respect for the first time in our history of conversing about God. Why had it taken so long? It's rude not to listen. We Christians should be the last people on earth to be rude to others.
2) I learned some interesting new things. I learned about Zen Buddhism, how Buddhists think, what they believe. My mind opened up. My world became more colorful. I became more informed and aware. Enlightened, even!
3) I began to see bridges between what my friend believed and what I believe.
ü Christians believe in the Oneness of the universe too. We just believe the "One" in Oneness is a Person, and that "oneness" happens when we choose to submit our spirits to His.
ü We believe human beings should behave ethically too. We just believe they can only truly do that in the strength of the One we submit to.
ü We meditate as well. But we don't empty our minds. We fill them with Truth about the One.
Our conversations continued after that day. In the end, neither of us convinced the other that our way was the Truth. But the results of sharing Christ with others are not our responsibility, and the end has not come yet. God will work, in His way and in His time.
I still have a hard time remembering to listen. Talking is so much easier. But listening is so much more rewarding, in every way. Listening is loving, resting, learning, growing. And in face-to-face, one-on-one situations, listening is essential to sharing the Gospel effectively.
Agree or disagree? Please share your opinion in a comment.
This article was originally posted in the FECB blog on in March, 2013.