(When Bonhoeffer speaks of community, he means any gathering of Christians, including the family.)
The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God's Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. ... We do God's work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.
So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to "offer" something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.
"Listen carefully to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears." Job 13:17
Questions to Ponder
What do you think of Bonhoeffer's statement that "the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them"?
In what way is listening to our brothers and sisters doing "God's work" for them?
Why do you suppose so many people find it so difficult to listen?
But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalm 81:11-13
Write about a time when you benefited from having another Christian listen to you.
Write about your experience as a listener. Are you a good listener? Did you feel like you were doing God's work as you listened?
Think about someone in your community of faith who never seems listened to. Pray that they might have the courage to speak what is on their heart and mind, and pray that you would have the compassion and interest to listen to them.
Prayer for Today
Lord Jesus, may I have the grace to listen to you and learn from you; may I have the grace to listen to and learn from others.
40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.