Bonhoeffer on Listening to One Another

 Among the countless other excellent passages in Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is his section under “Ministry” (Christian Service; p. 97-99).  I’m especially thinking of his notes on how Christians should listen to one another.  This piggybacks from what Adam McHugh noted (in Introverts in the Church) about evangelicalism being too talkative and chatty.

“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 in the 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.”

Bonhoeffer later writes how Christians are obligated to listen well to each other in a patient way, in a loving way which is open to confession of sins.  James says it best: let everyone be quick to listen and slow to speak (1.19).  Proverbs does too: When words are many, transgression is not lacking (10.19).  Or the Preacher: God is in heaven, you are on earth, therefore let your words be few (Ecc. 5.2).  Or our godly mothers: God gave you two ears and one mouth.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

2 Replies to “Bonhoeffer on Listening to One Another”

  1. Thanks. That was something I needed to be reminded of. I was fortunate to come across your blog (it was on the recently posted wordpress list).


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