The story of the Bible is full of people who were oppressed and who found themselves in a land that was ruled and controlled by others. This comes to a climax with the birth of Christ. The Jewish race found themselves yet again under the oppressive reign of a world power found in the Roman Empire. Living in Israel, if you were not a Pharisee or Herod himself, you would have found yourself having a voice nobody seemed to care about or listen to. The Jewish people tried different things in order to simply be heard. Whether this was through religious education and reform, through zealous leaders who plotted to overthrow the Roman rule, or simply through people in the street shouting, they wanted to be heard. Jesus, God incarnate, enters into a time when his people, the Jews, were crying out wanting to be heard. As I reflect on the state of our society and the chaos we read about and see in our streets (particularly after nightfall) I see people who simply want to be heard. They have a voice that for too long has gone silent and are now determined to be heard, not matter what the cost.
As a parent there are many times when my children will throw a fit. We have all been there. I can also remember as a child throwing fits with my parents. While there are a number of different reasons children throw fits or have a meltdown, it has seems, at least in the case of my children, more often than not it is because they feel as if they are not being heard. It can often be a bid for attention because mom or dad have been ignoring them. As a parent, when my children lash out, yell at me, or throw a fit, I tend to lose my patience pretty quickly and there is usually some sort of discipline that quickly follows. Most often though my children are not actually behaving from a place of overt disrespect or disobedience, but they are acting out because they feel as if they have not been seen or heard. I have found when I am able to sit down and actually listen to them there is a significant difference in the outcome. Their behavior is the language they are using because they want to be heard and when I truly hear them and understand them there is a significant behavioral change.
The majority of the protests that are and have been happening in our city have been nonviolent and peaceful. These protests are an exercise of our first amendment right. It can be a pretty great platform for voices to actually be heard. These protests have gone on for a long time and unfortunately have at times turned violent and destructive. There is absolutely no excuse for some of the behaviors that have been exhibited and of course when violence is incurred there are implications for the use of the first amendment. However, instead of being so quick cast judgement and demand discipline, I wonder what would happen if we exhibited a real curiosity instead. There are most certainly a few protesters who are bent on wreaking havoc, however, the overwhelmingly vast majority of them are not hell bent on destruction but rather truly desire to see reform and positive change. They simply want to be heard. If we can realize that our communities are full of people who have not been heard instead of people who are hell bent on wreaking havoc and destruction I wonder what kind of outcomes we might be able to come up with.
Jesus primary response to a people who were oppressed and hurting was to listen. For once in their life they had an up and coming leader who was willing to actually hear them. As humans, our greatest need is to be loved. And we feel loved when we feel heard. Therefore, love your neighbor by actually hearing them. Instead of casting judgement and making assumptions about people because they are voting for Trump or because they had an abortion, or because they own a gun, or because they voted for Gov. Brown, or because they are homeless, or because they have Black Lives Matter on their FaceBook profile picture, or because they posted All Lives Matter, or because they have participated in the protests, or because they fly an American flag from their porch, or because they wear a mask or don’t, or because they drive a Prius, or because they we are orange Crocs, or because they drive a big truck, or whatever it might be… try simply listening to each other. Be curious. I believe EVERY human being was created in the image of God therefore bearing the thumbprint of the divine. This gives us an inherent value and means that every voice does in fact matter and should be heard. So, instead of trying to make our voice a little louder, take some time to listen to others, and I’m not talking about reading their FaceBook posts, but rather actually talking to them, calling them on the phone or sitting with each other in a back yard, because at the heart of everything people really just want to be heard. So LISTEN.