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Years ago I was caught on a trans-Atlantic flight in the middle of four seats with two little kids, a mother, and a 9-month old. Now when I travel overseas, I always have my ear plugs or headphones handy.

Our world allows us to drown out whatever we don’t want to hear—whining kids, loud conversations, and even voices that challenge our thinking.

Because our experiences tell us one thing, we go with it to the point of plugging up our ears to anyone whose experience teaches them something else entirely. It can happen with family, more broadly in our cities and nation, and even in Christ’s church.

Jesus prays that the church would be one (John 17). That means that it is possible to respectfully disagree and at the same time support one another as people as in our efforts for God’s kingdom.

The problem is that our ear plugs drown out any position that challenges our own. Thus, we hear other people through biased voices rather than listening to the people themselves in an effort to understand.

Instead of shutting out everything with which we disagree, what if we plug up our ears to voices on both sides that call us to distrust and hate those who take a different position on issues? What if we actively listen to all voices that respectfully and truthfully approach the issues, and then process what we’ve heard biblically? How do we know we’re right when we haven’t even listened intently to good arguments for alternatives? How can we understand the lives of refugees or people of color when we never interact with them about the issues or seek to hear their stories?

We are missing the real battle if we’re focused on other humans: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12). Our real enemies are trying to divide us as God’s people. Instead of attacking our brothers and sisters who are different colors or nationalities, let’s listen and pray more.

Love means unplugging our ears to understand. In the end we may still not totally agree, but we can be united by God’s love as brothers and sisters who serve the same God.

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