>Part V The Charity of The Listener

Posted: 31/07/2010 in Christian living, church, confession


The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” -Hosea 3:1

Authenticity is a good. The practice of confessing leads us to this and other goals. I think that most Christians would be willing to be a bit more authentic. So what stops this from happening? I suspect this does not happen because there are few who are willing to listen, not because there are few who are willing to speak.

I entitled this blog the “Charity of the Listener (aka the Confessor).” By charity, I do not mean that the listener gives away money or something. I mean it terms of Christian Charity, which is Love that surpasses our conventional thinking of love. Christian Love goes beyond loving what is similar and good in order to love what is alien and ugly. It loves that which normally unloveable. A Biblical example is the symbolic marriage of Hosea to a prostitute. God loves Israel like Hosea loves his wife. God loves that which is alien and ugly, so Christians must be willing to do the same. We have to love sinful people -most of all sinful Christians.

Hearing, and really listening, to someone accuse themselves of sin is an act of Christian charity. It means not responding with judgment and not with quick fixes. However, this act of charity begins long before a friend comes to you and says, “I have sinned.” We need the reputation as the loving listener long before because who would think to come to us otherwise? I have decided that I want to be the kind of Christian who listens. I want to have a reputation of patience and charity. This is reputation that will be hard earned. The first step to do so is to avoid harsh “tough-love” rhetoric. Judging is easy, but graciousness is hard.

Before you think of commenting on what I have said so far, please do this thought experiment with me. Before you start, try to be in a private environment and take a few moments of introspection. If you’re ready, please try this with me: think of one of your worst sins. Think back to a time when you did something or thought something that made you feel ashamed, guilty, and filled with regret. This might be a moment of envy of someone else good blessing. It might also be failure to look out for the needy. Maybe you lost your temper and became hateful. I am not asking you to tell me or anyone else what it is, but think about. Then think about how it made you feel after you realized it was sin.

With that in your heart, imagine meeting a pastor or another Christian who had this to say in a sermon:

Some of you guys are a total joke. I have no respect for you at all. You can’t get a job, keep a job, you can’t keep your hands off a girl, you can’t stop downloading porn… (source)

Or barring that, how about a message like this?

Have you ever thought that there are people who go to hell today that never thought they’d go there? You indulge in your favorite sin…You don’t want to be like God. You just want people to back off when they reprove the thing that you are in love with! (source)

Now do these approaches make you feel like being more open about your sin, or hide it more? If you are anything like most people, these are likely to make you defensive, frustrated, and possibly even a little bitter. If it makes you feel more open, what motivates you to serve God? Fear of reprisal? Guilt? Need for an authority’s approval? How long will such appeals remain effective?

What kind of approach would make you feel comfortable in being open about your sin?

I admit, There was a point in my Christian life were such rhetoric and language really made sense to me. Think though, of how it made you feel. I know I no longer have a positive reaction to this kind of stuff. If I did not have a good reaction to this than likely most other people did not either. I realized that I could not stomach this kind of thing much longer, and decided that I would repent –yes repent– of such behavior and make a conscious effort to do the opposite. I would rather be the kind of person who reminds people of God’s forgiveness, than the one who accuses them of sin.

Christian Charity means a few things. We must put our love and compassion for a sinner above a zealous tendency to renounce sin. We have to replace open contempt with patience. We must drop petty justifications for harboring resentment towards (other) sinners. We must learn to be like God who loves things that are ugly. As God listens the prayers of sinful people, so might he make us able to be listen to them too.

Now it is time for your comments…

…or the start of the series.

  1. Brandilyn says:

    >If I am able to accomplish this before I die, I will have considered my life a success.This was written beautifully.

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