We watched the Academy Awards last night for the first time in a long time. It’s interesting how so much of it is not about movies … it’s about the platform for artists to speak their minds. And we listen. Man do we listen.
I also like to listen to news on satellite radio when I drive to and from work. I listen to Fox News’s radio feed. Through that I get a lot of info on what’s happening in the world. No different than other news channels (but for the different political persuasion of all of them). But there’s much to listen to … and I listen, intently.
A bunch of my buddies like to listen to ESPN radio or similar programs so they can dive deeply into the inside scoop of sports. I LOVE sports, don’t get me wrong, but other than my beloved USC Trojans I can’t get excited about listening to sports pontificators. But many of my buddies listen … they listen closely.
None of that listening is bad … per se. It forms our perspective, our view of the world. We listen to a lot of voices and stimuli. All of us have myriad messages hitting us all the time. Media. Books. Friends. Family. Pundits. Experts. How do we mull through it all to come out with a message that’s dependable? Reliable? Discernable? Applicable? It’s impossible, and worse yet, by the time all the messages get synthesized in our minds, the can basically cancel out … the cacophony drowns itself out and becomes unintelligible, let alone useful.
This week as I read my “New Testament in a year” reading plan, the words of Jesus Himself gave me something to think about on this point. Mark’s gospel was intended to show the humanity of Jesus … Jesus as a man … and I think it’s powerful to read Mark with that in mind. As depicted by Mark, Jesus’s words are very direct and personal. Through Mark 1 – 4, this was certainly the feel. And Jesus makes a clear, concise, and key point for us in Mark 4:24-25 …
Then he [Jesus] added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
Here, I think, are the answers to some of the questions I raised earlier. Jesus makes it clear that we should listen, and listen closely. So, it’s not the act of listening that causes the obscurity of understanding. The act of listening … closely, actively … leads to understanding. So what gives? Why is it that when we listen more in real life, it feels like anything other than more understanding.
Jesus clarifies … “To those who listen to my teaching…” It’s not just listening that matters. It’s not even just listening closely that matters. It is to whom we listen that makes the difference.
In fact, it’s the closer we listen to Jesus that defines understanding. True understanding. True understanding of the truth. His singular voice can drown out the ruinous crowd of all the others.
This isn’t to say we can’t or shouldn’t listen to other inputs or insights. Let’s face it, God gave those many voices their voices … and through them can make known what He desires. And, those many voices can shape and balance us in various ways. But there needs to be a standard, a plumb line, that we can employ to know on which voice we can rely.
He is the standard. He is the clarity. He … alone … is the truth.
As we listen to His words, His teaching, more, we gain a greater sense of solidity and understanding. It’s that sense of true understanding that allows us to take in the other voices that compete for our attention and keep them in proper context. But that means we need to actually listen to His words. Which means, we need to engage with His words. We need to know what His words are. That means spending time in His words daily. We devote significant attentiveness to the Academy Awards, Fox News (or CNN), ESPN, family, friends, etc., and gain confusion. We can spend that time with Jesus and gain understanding.
Among the disharmony and harshness of all the competing sounds lies the clear voice, the One we can rely on to synchronize the noise. But we have to choose. To listen. To His. Voice.
God our Father, help us to seek your voice, to listen, and to hear. By that hearing, Lord, let us truly understand what You say, and what You say is true. Let your truth help us to hear through the noise of this world, and no matter what we choose to listen to in the freedom you grant us, help us to know more what You want us to know, and to gain all the more freedom by that virtue. And through that, Lord, to draw closer to You. Amen.