Recently I wrote about how the Bible uses the human body as a metaphor for the body of Christ, the Church. How all parts are equally important, even if we give some more appreciation than others. This prompted me to take a closer look – literally – to some specific parts: eyes and ears.
Eyes tend to get more notice. Physicians say that even for newborn infants, as soon as they are able to focus, the first thing they seek is another set of eyes to lock onto. To enhance outward appearances, women – and some men, I guess – invest time and money in eye makeup. There’s not nearly as much effort to make ears look good, except for earrings.
In debates or disagreements, we talk about being able to see eye-to-eye. Or at least that used to be the case. These days it seems few people care to work toward agreement and mutual understanding. Which is sad. Maybe what’s needed is not striving for eye-to-eye accord, but “ear-to-ear resuscitation.”
Our eyes enable us to assess outward appearances, which we usually use for judging. Or, alas, for prejudging. In other words, “prejudice.” When using our ears to hear what people are saying – if we’re willing to really listen – we gain a much better sense of what’s going on inside, within their hearts.
One of my favorite verses in the Scriptures tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We all have the capacity to make ourselves look presentable, but what’s in our hearts isn’t as easily discerned. God is uniquely equipped for doing that.
This is why I think we need to work harder at communicating ear-to-ear. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.”
We need look no further than the Lord Jesus, who even as a youth understood the importance of “ear-to-ear” communications. When He was 12 years old, His parents had taken Him to Jerusalem for the annual Passover festival. When time came for returning home, Jesus’ earthly parents presumed He was with relatives or friends. However, after a day of travel went by and they had not seen Him, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to find Him.
Luke 2:46 states, “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.“ After being a respectful, attentive listener, it says of Jesus, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47).
I’ll never forget the day I met my friend, Gary. A mutual friend had connected us, telling me Gary had been trying to write a book about his life without much success. He needed a professional writer to help in shaping his notes into publishable form.
When I arrived at the local coffee shop where we had agreed to meet, Gary was wearing overalls and looked more like a farmer than the successful businessman I understood him to be. His choice of attire was purposeful – it was Gary’s litmus test for determining whether I was the kind of person he wanted to work with.
I’d like to think I’m “no respecter of persons,” as the King James Version translates Acts 10:34, so I gave no significance to his “un-businesslike” outfit. We had a great conversation and as a result, spent a number of months together shaping Gary’s rough manuscript into a heartfelt book he has used for developing a non-profit that’s having a powerful impact on young people in our area.
Because we both were willing to hear ear-to-ear, we found we also could see eye-to-eye. Maybe it’s time we all quit overworking our eyes and gave our ears more of an opportunity to exchange ideas in productive ways that can strengthen relationships, rather than destroy them.