Do not forget the greater service

Preparing to preach on some of the listening texts in proverbs (there are many). In doing so, I’ve returned to Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. In his chapter entitled “Ministry”, he has a section on the ministry of listening. He writes:

Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.

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