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How to Be a Biblical Spiritual Friend Part Four: Six Principles of Biblical Listening: LISTEN

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When our friend is hurting or struggling in life, how do we listen biblically? We can use the acrostic LISTEN to remind ourselves of basic components of competent biblical listening.   

L  Loving Motivation: Proverbs 21:13

I   Intimate Concern: Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6; James 3:17-18

S  Slow to Speak: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19

T  Timing: Proverbs 15:23; 25:11

E  Encouraging: Hebrews 3:7-19; 10:24-25

N  Need-Focused Hearing: Ephesians 4:29


L         Loving Motivation: Proverbs 21:13

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). As a loving spiritual friends, you are motivated, like God, to listen for, hear, care about, empathize with, and respond to the hurts of the wounded. What drives careful listening is not secular theory or human curiosity. Care does. Christ-like compassion does. 

I           Intimate Concern: Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6; James 3:17-18

Paul (Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6) emphasizes the humble, spiritual, gentle, and gracious concern that accompanies competent spiritual listening. James (James 3:17-18), in a context sandwiched between the use of the tongue and the cause of quarrels, explains that wisdom for living flows from a heart that loves people and peace, a soul that is considerate and submissive, and a mind that is impartial and sincere. 

S          Slow to Speak: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19

James is emphatic. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Solomon explains why. “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Remember a basic principle of spiritual friendship: hear your friend’s story before you tell God’s story to your friend.

T         Timing: Proverbs 15:23; 25:11

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23). “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “Apt” means fitting, timely, given in due season. As a skillful spiritual friend, speak words said at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason because of right listening. 

E         Exploring: Hebrews 3:7-19; 10:24-25

Both Hebrews 3 and 10 speak of encouraging in the context of exploratory listening. Before you encourage your friend, tune into, see, listen, and hear what is going on in your spiritual friend’s life (external situation) and heart (internal reaction). 

N         Need-Focused Hearing: Ephesians 4:29

Before speaking words that benefit others, listen for specific needs. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). As you listen, ask: “What is it that my spiritual friend most needs? What are his hurts and wounds? What are her fears and scars? What wholesome words relate to her specific situation? Specifically, given his situation, what words will benefit him?”

Join the Conversation

Of the six principles of biblical listening, which one do you most need to develop further? Who LISTENs biblically to you?

Note: Developed from Spiritual Friends ( Spiritual Friends is part of the ABC’s biblical counseling curriculum and the ABC’s certification process. In Spiritual Friends you learn how to develop twenty-two biblical counseling relational competencies. 

Posted on August 18, 2014