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We’ve all heard the saying that there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. It falls in line with the Biblical teaching that we ought to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Failure to follow this principle can lead to much pain, judgment, separation and enmity.

Because we struggle to believe that Christ is for us, we feel threatened by those who are different. To protect ourselves, we develop filters to keep “the dirty people” at bay. With our cold and self-righteous attitudes, we sanitize our surroundings. And we poison all who enter in casting condemning words like fool, whore, fag, thug or addict.

We judge to feel safe. And we get this false safety by denying the gospel. It’s a sinful way to deal with difference (and even sin) in the other.

When different people approach us, we immediately categorize them as dangerous, bad, morally lower and/or separate. Rather than listen to them we wrongfully lower them.

Listening, after all, gives them our time. We have to get close and smell their breath. We have to endure the interruption. We have to hear their words, experiences, requests, and even their view of things. We risk being viewed by others as “one of them.” When we listen, we lose control and open ourselves up to “the other.”

Many Christians disliked what Macklemore said/sang at the Grammys. Ironically, he said some things that were right, but people fear what they don’t know. And we don’t like what we fear.

After such an event, a quick scan of Facebook and Twitter will show ethical judgments populating the social media highways.

Christians were astounded by the “leftist propaganda that was shoved down our throat.” People were offended by the explicit, anti-Christian view of marriage, God and church. And many were horrified that the audience (and many others) were bought in – even some with tears.

Admittedly, I too was astounded. I was offended. And, yes, frightened that so many were buying in. However, as the burning in my chest kindled, [pullquote]I began to feel something was deeply wrong with our reactions. I was quick to speak. I was quick to anger. And I was slow to listen.[/pullquote]

We were bombarded with many powerful words that night. If we stop and listen, we find them to be deeply honest words about the way Macklemore, homosexuals and many others in our culture feel.

If these words are dismissed before they have a chance to be heard, the person expressing them feels voiceless, insignificant and cold. As Christians, we don’t have to agree, but we are called to listen. Why? Because listening to other image bearers, whether right or wrong, is the first step to loving them.

As I consider the gospel and my life-story, I am thankful that Jesus did not demand my rightness before he looked at me, listened and loved me.

This issue is deeper than the Grammys. It is more than Macklemore or Madonna. [pullquote position=”right”]These events are a call to the Kingdom to repent of our Pharisaical, self-protective, self-glorifying judgments.[/pullquote] They are a call to move toward others with truth and love; with open ears and open hearts.

Unfortunately, we judged Madonna’s outfit before we heard her powerful words, “Open your heart to me…”

Christians, we need to open our hearts to the dying world around us. Our failure to do this has left us, in part, culpable for the actions we so despise. This doesn’t mean we leave our post and pillar of truth. But we must move with compassion towards those who are different from us, who disagree with us and who do not hold the truth about God like we do. We must see them and listen.

Did you hear them?

Did you listen to Macklemore? Did you hear him say that he was in third grade when he first believed he was gay? My little girl is in third grade and if she came to me with that thought, I’d be shocked and saddened. Regardless of how she came to such a conclusion, I would assume she had been sexually exposed before her time. She doesn’t even know what gay is.

If we would only listen, we would not dismiss him as “some-gay-propagandist” but see him as a fellow image bearer, who as a boy, was exposed to sexual things and homosexuality when he was only eight. We would see a boy who could not wipe his shameful stains away.

He tried to get help.

Did you hear him say he told his mom? Imagine the turmoil for that little boy as he approached his mom with this subject? Can you imagine the pain, confusion and loneliness he felt when he heard her say (in effect) “No you’re not! You like girls, remember?”

Stop and compassionately consider this eight-year-old, struggling with homosexuality to the point of doing math in his head to convince himself he wasn’t. Try feeling the tension and pain he felt in working up the courage to tell his mom, only to hear her say, “You’re crazy.”

We must hear and understand that at an early age, Macklemore became voiceless. Like many others, he became alone.

Did you hear about the tears running down his face? Did you hear him talk about kids who would rather die than be who they are?

Did you hear how his homosexuality was addressed? He felt people tried to cure him with treatment and religion. [pullquote]Sadly, that’s what Christianity became to this little boy – a treatment program to cure his gayness. This is sad. We should weep.[/pullquote]

Christ is so much more. If we are honest, we know we are not quickly “fixed.” Redemption heals our heart as it spreads slowly through trial, temptation, confession, acceptance and forgiveness. Sin unfortunately lingers as we struggle through sanctification by grace.

I’m sure he tried to change. I’m sure he attended church. But I’m inclined to believe that he was rejected and judged rather than given truth with love.

As I listened to Macklemore, I heard the words of my homosexual friend, “I didn’t want to be this way. I tried to change. I went to church. People seemed afraid of me. I was alone there.”

If we listen, we begin to see that sexual distortions are sinful and pragmatic ways we cope with deep pain, rejection and loneliness.

And I wonder if our judgment deafened our ability to hear Mary Lambert sing about the experiential realities of depravity and human inability.

“I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to…”

We should have noticed this and wept. With these words, she brought the propositional into the experiential, and we simply couldn’t handle it. The truth is, depravity is easier read about in books than dealt with in real life.

Mary Lambert’s words were dark and difficult, but honest.

As I listened, I grew sad. I could feel her words. In my own poverty, I’ve been there and am there often. I have tried to change and fix myself. I have tried to not be different – even in my own sexual distortions. I have a dark past with sexual sin. Thankfully, I have seen redemption. But it didn’t come through Facebook rants or Twitter blurbs.

I could continue writing, but you should listen (again) yourself. You will hear words like numb, faggot, hate, acceptance, oppression, voiceless, equality, pain, and the inability of law to change us. Yes, this man is wrong in his views. But in many ways is more honest than many preachers. And wouldn’t you rather listen to wrong honesty than right hypocrisy?

I am reminded of Eminem’s lyrics, “I can’t tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like…”

Millions listen to the honest expressions from artists and immediately feel they are not alone.

Someone understands them. Someone will listen. Someone knows what it feels like. Someone will love them and keep them warm.

[pullquote position=”right”]If we simply dismiss people because they are wrong, we will never understand them, their childhood, their life and their struggles.[/pullquote] If we are not careful, our quick judgment will wound those we are called to heal. It will separate us from those Jesus came to save.

People need more than someone telling them what it feels like. They also need more than someone who just tells them what it is.

They need the love of the gospel, through the honest words and authentic actions of another struggling image bearer.

People need truth and love. They need mercy, compassion and grace. They need Jesus.


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