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Listening at the Margins

As people, we naturally gravitate toward those similar to ourselves. It’s simple, easy and it’s comfortable. We gain friendship, empathy and encouragement from such relationships but a problem ensues when we solely hang around those similar to us - we end up only listening to like-minded voices.

We often don’t realize how enveloped we are in like-mindedness until our beliefs are challenged in an abrupt fashion. Perhaps we see a tweet that jars us or a guest preacher stirs something up at church. “What? People believe that!” or “I have never heard scripture interpreted that way!” We are forced to deal with the dissonance that sometimes comes with new ideas.

It sounds too simple, but what we are actually realizing is that the world is not just like me.

This is a perfectly good and natural discovery. However it’s what we do with the discovery that matters. Do we turn and run the other way? Do we fight back? Or, do we listen for a minute? Hopefully we listen with curiosity. Listening to voices different than ours is often easier said than done but God often speaks in those voices.

God is bigger than the little world we often create around us. Go see what He is up to in other communities, in different neighbourhoods, with people who look or sound or smell different than you, in churches that make you uncomfortable. But be sure to begin your learning by listening.

One of the places many of us don’t listen is at the margins of society. We often don’t hear the minority voices - not because they are voiceless (please don’t make that mistake), but because we are not listening. The following are a few tweets from a morning where Austin Channing Brown needed to get a few things off her chest. Here is what she had to say about (not) being a “voice for the voiceless.” (Please note, I’ve condensed them down for this post but you can see them all here).

If I have learned anything from Twitter (don’t mock it until you try it), it is the importance of listening to the voices of those different from me (Austin being one of the voices to which I listen closely). We know from scripture that God not only loves those on the margins but that He is right there in the midst of the margins. Jesus hung out with those banished from mainstream society. He was breaking laws to be with people that society had cast out. This was critical to Jesus - He sought out people who were not only different than him, but people who no one else was listening to. What about the marginalized in today’s society? How do we learn from them?

We start by listening. I was pleased to discover a project within the CRC hosted by Do Justice called the “Listening to Marginalized Voices Challenge.”

Here is what Do Justice has to say about the project:

A number of CRC agencies have come together to listen to stories from people who are marginalized in various ways, whether because they are disabled, Native American, refugees, undocumented immigrants, survivors of domestic violence, etc.

Will you listen at the margins with us for the month of November? If you sign up for the “Listening to Marginalized Voices Challenge”, we’ll send you one five-minute story per day for the month of November.

Let’s commit this month to listening. We can be so quick to fix and do—but listening is the beginning of understanding and showing love to people who can often be overlooked. Let’s hang out with Jesus on the margins and be transformed by Him.

[Image: edited from original by Flickr user Tim Pierce]


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