It has been pointed out that God gave us two ears but only one mouth. Evidently, He wants us to listen more than we talk. James made the same point when he encouraged Christians to be “quick to hear” and “slow to speak” (James 1:19).
When we listen well, we reflect God’s image (Gen. 1:26), because God is the consummate listener. Just as He is not a mute idol, neither is He a deaf one (Ps. 115:5–6). The triune God speaks (Heb. 1:1–2), and He listens. The Father listens to the Son; He hears and answers His prayers (John 11:41–42; Heb. 5:7; 7:25). The Son listens to the Father; He hears and does His will (John 5:29–30; 8:28; 12:49–50). The Spirit listens to the Father and the Son, and they listen to Him (John 14:16; 16:13–15; Rom. 8:26–27).
Amazingly, the triune God also listens to us. He attentively hears and graciously answers the prayers of His people (Ex. 2:23–25; Ps.34:15; 66:19–20; John 15:16). This should never cease to boggle our minds and move our hearts—the God of the universe listens to us when we pray.
We should note also the way that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, genuinely listened to others. He not only preached to them; He spent time with them, ate meals with them, and engaged them in conversation. He asked them probing questions and sincerely listened to their responses. He listened to them as they talked about their fears, longings, and religious beliefs. Think of the humility of the Son of God, God incarnate, listening to sinners speak to Him about religion. He who is worshiped by angels listened while sinners shared their views on worship. God in the flesh listened while sinners theologized to Him. The Christ humored sinners as they waxed eloquent about Christology. The Savior listened as the sinners He came to save shared their insights about salvation (Matt. 19:16–30; John 3:1–15; 4:7–42).
Jesus listened to sinners for the same reason that He spoke to them: because He loved them (Mark 10:21). He conversed even with those who were seeking to kill Him, and even to them He said, “I say these things so that you may be saved” (John 5:34). Jesus did not listen to the musings or even the accusations of sinners in order to quickly formulate a rebuttal that would “put them in their place.” Rather, He listened to them in order to engage them with the good news of His love so they could be saved (John 3:17).
Thus, when we grow as good listeners, we are not only reflecting God’s image; we are reaching out with God’s love. If God lovingly listens to us, shouldn’t we lovingly listen to one another? Shouldn’t we be “quick to listen” not only to God, but also to His image bearers? This is important in all our relationships, including our relationships with those who do not yet have a saving relationship with Jesus.