The friendly clutch of my forearm took me by surprise.  After three months of stringent social distancing, even the pre-lockdown elbow bump seems a distant memory.  And now I found myself looking down at the genial grandma who had grabbed my arm in B&Q.

“It’s all right” she said, referring to me telling my children to move out of her way.  “I can see my grandchildren now.  I saw it on the telly this morning.”

It was clearly not the time to discuss six person bubbles, outdoor meetings or the fact that my children were not her grandchildren.  Certainly not how the presence of her husband might mean she had longer to wait.  The headline on the television was conclusive.

For the first time I had sympathy for politicians seeking simple slogans.  With a wry smile and some more friendly words, we went on our way.

But it did get me thinking.  Am I more like this well-meaning but mistaken lady than I care to admit?

We hear what we want hear

Longing to see and hug her grandchildren, the lady had seized upon the headlines.  Do not our ears prick up at anything that allows us to gain what our hearts desire?  It’s not just teenagers who tune out things that might unsettle us or prevent us from getting what we want.

There’s a striking prediction of what some people would be like in our day in the Bible:

“To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  (2 Timothy 4:3)

We only want to hear affirmation

Affirmation is important.  With so much anxiety around, everyone needs encouragement.  We need those around us who will remind us of our strengths and worth.  The danger comes if we only listen to affirmation.

We don’t want to hear we need to change

Truth is important.  Those who love us the most have the courage and concern not only to affirm us, but to tell us where we need to change.  We won’t always like to hear it, but it is dangerous to tune it out.

It’s not hard to find those who will tell us what our itching ears want to hear.  They will tell us that we are good people: we’re not perfect, but we try our best (most of the time, anyway).  The tell us that if there is a God, he likes good people like us and will welcome us into heaven.

We need to hear the full truth

But God loved this world enough to send his Son to tell us what we need to hear: the full truth.  We’re not as good as we think we are.  We admit we’re not perfect.  But we need to admit that we have hopelessly failed to meet up to God’s standard of loving him with all our heart, and loving our neighbours as ourselves.

We like to point to what we’ve done for others.  But we have to ask: have we really loved them as much as ourselves?  And have we loved God most of all?

We need to listen to time-tested truth

We know that we hear on the TV is not always true.  Even if the presenters or politicians are not deliberately lying, everyone can be mistaken.  But it is wonderful to have a time-tested source of truth in the Bible.

We can say: it is true, I read it in the Bible.  Christians all over the world are glad that they have listened to God lovingly warn us that we have failed to meet up to his standard.  We are all sinners.

And they are glad to have listened to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, telling them the remedy for sin that he came to bring.  He came to die in the place of sinners.  He offers forgiveness and a place in heaven to all who turn from their sin and trust in him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What are you listening to?

Do you only listen to what you want to hear?  Or do you listen to what you need to hear?  Have you ever truly heard and responded to the words of one loving enough to tell you the full truth?

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