Jesus said, love your enemies, but what does that mean in practice?
In my experience love begins with listening.
If we only listen to those we agree with, what credit is that to us? Even terrorists do that! But if we wish to make a difference in this world, if we want the world to become a listening world, we need to lead by example. We need to become excellent listeners, active listeners … listening to those we disagree with.
So, what has that meant for me? In practice it has meant actively listening to militant Atheists and Goddess worshippers and gays and gun lovers in all sorts of different contexts. It has meant listening to all sorts of people with all sorts of objections to Christianity and Christians like me, sometimes for quite valid reasons. At times it has even meant engaging with militant Hindus who openly justify violence against Christians. It has also meant listening to Christian fundamentalists who’ve called me a heretic, who’ve acted very unloving towards me and been very disinterested in listening and understanding.
It has not always been easy; sometimes it’s been real hard; many times I’ve slipped. But when I’ve listened, I’ve found amazing things can happen. I’ve found that listening can be contagious. I’ve found that enemies can become trusted friends. I’ve found that even when enemies remain enemies, the experience of persevering has helped to strengthen my faith, deepen my humility and soften my heart. I’ve found that I’ve learned heaps, about others, about myself and about God.
Above all, I’ve found listening can be a deep and practical discipline in loving.
So let me suggest, in our conversations, to always listen in order to understand, to listen before expecting to be listened to, and to listen for our listening and loving God in the process.