Double Listening

I recently attended the John Stott 2014 London Lecture at All Souls Langham Place. It was presented by professor Alister McGrath of Oxford University. In the lecture he both reminded us of the importance of what John Stott called 'Double listening' and sought to bring the concept up to date for our time and culture.

What is double listening? For us as Christians it means to be able to speak God's word to God's world. To be rooted in a biblical faith but to remain aware of the culture around us so that we make every effort to interpret the Good News of Jesus into our culture. I am aware that some Christians are wary of such approaches fearing the loss of our biblical roots. However as Stott said "It is comparatively easy to be faithful if we do not care about being contemporary, and easy also to be contemporary if we do not bother to be faithful." Indeed of the Good News of Jesus he went further reminding us that it is our "Solemn responsibility to reinterpret it in terms meaningful to our culture."

What might double listening mean for us. Within our our families and church life it might mean listening properly to the struggles and demands being made on our children and young people and working hard to explain how Jesus speaks to those needs. It might mean being active in organisations and groups outside of church life so we become aware of how people are thinking and behaving, not to preach at them, but to be salt and light. It might mean developing a critical awareness of our media. I now find it impossible to discern whether much of what fills our news channels and papers properly reflects people views or whether the media itself is actually creating these issues.

As I write this I am reminded that it is just 6 months before the general election and my own double listening tells me that Immigration will be a major focus of the next few months. On my way home on the train I could not avoid doing some double listening to three people with very clear views about these issues. What suddenly struck me is that regardless of whether we are talking about immigration, independence for Scotland or gay rights, ours has become a very angry culture. Perhaps this anger  is genuinely rooted in fears about change, perhaps it reveals a deep seated insecurity that most of us would not want to admit to, or perhaps we are shocked to discover that there is a real need to be free of the anger that is often just below the surface of our lives. 

When I came out of the tube at Oxford Circus to walk along Regents Street at least 3 different publications were offered to me. As I walked along Regents Street there were voices and nationalities from every part of our world. Yet, encouragingly in the lecture itself there were people from many countries of our world. People who despite cultural differences, barriers of language, have found that Jesus makes sense of their lives. The Regent's Street along which I walked is in one sense is just like Rome at the time of the New Testament writers. Every religion and cult and nationality was represented, what is so wonderful is that gradually the truth of Jesus was able to be reinterpreted into so many of the lives that made up that city. 

I hope all of this encourages us to be people of hope not of anger, for our confidence is the power of Jesus to transform lives and cultures. I hope it encourages us to work even harder to find the words and actions that speak Christ to our families, the person we work alongside or we meet in a cafe or shop. If you have found yourself becoming an angry Christian, stop and take time to listen to yourself and the lives of others around you. Seek to discover afresh Christ's power to overcome that anger bubbling away beneath the surface. And as we listen to our culture, our children, our work colleagues or friends remember what Martin Luther once said. "You cannot change that which you do not love"


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