Marty was touring Europe just as they were breaking down the Berlin Wall. Wanting to get some historic pieces of the Wall, he headed for Berlin. Because he found the hotels there beyond his means, he asked a young policeman if he knew of an inexpensive place where he could stay. The policeman told Marty he had a small apartment he wasn’t using and he was welcome to use it. When Marty offered him money the policeman declined, but explained, “When I come to Canada, I want to stay at your place.”
Such openness is all too rare these days! However, the words of the Apostle Peter still direct us in 1 Peter 4:9: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” NIV
The term “hospitality” used in the Bible means “love of the stranger or alien.” Hospitality is one of the primary means for us to demonstrate love to others.
When you first hear this you might think, “Oh, I better start having people over to my house.” That would be one end result of what Peter is driving at here, but it is much deeper than that. It begins with you becoming an open person.
Some minds are like concrete – thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
The Bible has some advice for those who would be wise. Openness and willingness to listen are essential if you are to be wise. Solomon spent a lot of time watching the fool and the wise man. In Proverbs 18:2 he observes:
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. NIV
Having an open mind means you associate with people who are unlike you. Molly Marshall explains (in “The Other Side”, Nov./Dec. 1996, page 57):
When we envision the church as an idealized family, we are not very capable of welcoming the stranger. When family is the only metaphor we use, people with whom we cannot achieve intimacy, or with whom we do not want to be intimate, are squeezed out. Since intimacy often depends on social and economic similarities, church then becomes a place of retreat rather than true hospitality. Such a church does everything in its power to eliminate the strange and cultivate the familiar. Such a church can neither welcome the stranger nor allow the stranger in each of us to emerge.
Those who boast about having an open mind often have an open mouth to match. James 1:19 summarizes one of the most challenging pursuits in life:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… NIV
Opening your mind begins with opening your ears. Your ears and mouth cannot be open at the same time. You can become a good listener as you:
- Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
- Hear the feeling behind the words. Express empathy for the other’s feelings.
- Reflect on what you’ve heard and check out the accuracy of the meanings you pick up. Summarize what you understand to the speaker.
- Stop pushing your own agenda – a hard one for a Christian who is constantly on the outlook for ways to witness.
- Know your limits – don’t be a listening sponge. You get to talk too.
- Work at it. We are all naturally self-centred people and it takes practice and discipline to put another’s needs first.
Would your friends and family say you are a good listener? Would they say that you have an open mind?
Openness starts between the ears.
President, Cooperative ESL Ministries