Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dirt, Filth and Gunk

Missionary Ken Sorrell wrote in a recent post, "I am being reminded that you have to listen to the other person more than you speak to the other person... People have a story to tell and we need to make time to stop and listen to these stories." This is so true. I was in Starbucks last Sunday and an elderly gentleman sat down by me while I was reading my Bible. I asked him a few questions which launched him into his life's story which lasted for over an hour. He told how he had grown up in Bosnia and how he ultimately came to this city. During his story I was able to capture a few statements that he made regarding his journey, such as how he felt "rejected" by the U.S. government who would not allow him to come in as a refugee and how he felt "accepted" when a week later Canada had given him refugee status. From those two statements I later asked him how he felt when he found out that he had been rejected and then how he felt after he learned that he had been accepted. 
Of course as you can already tell, I had the perfect opportunity to explain the Gospel to him. My point is that I agree with Ken completely. We have to listen. If we are the ones doing the talking, there is no way we can learn about those who we are sent to. We have to develop listening skills so that we can learn about those we are engaging in order that we can enter into spiritual conversations that relate directly to their lives. I also believe that we have to develop listening skills so that we will be able to see those who we are engaging, as "real" people. 

It is far too easy for me to see those I am surrounded because my tendency is to want to live in a sterile environment. What I mean by sterile environment is that I tend to not want to get involved in other peoples messy lives. it is much easier to not look at people on the bus, the subway on the plane etc... by doing so, in a sense, they no longer exist. As well, if I give quick curt answers to questions or even a simple "how do you do"? I am still able to live in my sterile shut off world because I know that the conversation will not go much further. 
It is not until I begin to dig into the lives of others by asking questions, not busy body questions, but questions of curiosity, questions of concern, questions of wanting to experience what they have experienced, do I begin to get my hands dirty. When my hands begin to get dirty from my excavation, it is then that I realize that I have begun the process of developing a relationship with that person. I begin to care about that person in a more personal manner because the various treasures that this person holds begin to be exposed. I believe that God has ordained relationships such as this example, as one of the primary means of spreading the Gospel. I say this because "dirty relationships" more clearly displays His characteristics of love, empathy, compassion, joy etc... than does a more sterile approach of "just" sharing the Romans Road, handing out a tract or the like. We need to remember that He came into our dirty, filthy and corrupt world so that He could share the greatest Treasure of all, with us. If He truly resides within us, then He expects no less of us. We need to be seeking to get involved in the lives of others and not continue to be self focused and self consumed.

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