Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 10

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. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.

(p. 98). Wow. God blesses us by promising to listen to us. He doesn’t always answer in return, but we believe he always listens. Therefore, we take on the very image of God when we listen to one another.

Imagine how far fewer fights and arguments we’d have if we’d honor this one rule! Who among us hasn’t grown frustrated, even angry, when a dispute arose and we knew — KNEW! — that the other person wouldn’t have disagreed at all if only he’d taken the time to listen.

I remember years ago hearing a sermon by Patrick Mead in which he recommended a ministry of presence, that is, that we turn off our cell phones, pagers, and laptops, and just take the time to actually give someone our undivided attention, to truly listen.

We don’t have to agree or even understand. No one can promise that. But we can surely promise to give someone the totality of our attention.

There is nothing more unselfish. Indeed, one of the most selfish things we can do is to prefer the noise of our own thoughts while pretending to care about what someone else is saying.

We live in an age when time is hard to come by, and when multi-tasking is considered normal. Many of us cannot go five minutes without checking our cell phones, and our brains demand the constant stimulation of new emails and Facebook postings.

We fill ourselves with messages but not with listening — and so we live in age filled will communication — and loneliness. Listen.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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5 Responses to Community Disciplines: Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, Part 10

  1. Todd Collier says:

    Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

    Broke this one just last night. I was the victim of a “drive by” Tuesday and was very ready for my small groupies to exuent omnes. One of the poor dears didn’t know me as well as the rest so with every comment she made she felt compelled to fill me in on the back story to the comment. All I could think of was getting her out the door so I could regroup, I should have been more patient and more attentive.

    Comunity is absolutely necessary and yet can be so inconvenient. May God extend us grace to help us be graceful.

  2. Todd Collier says:

    its even harder when its mis-spelled.

  3. Chris Pierson says:

    This is not rocket science, but it does require dying to self, and believing that the other person made in the image of Jesus is valuable and worth listening to. I wish I could say I am good at this, but it is often uneven.
    There are small things you can do. I try to turn off my computer screen when I am talking to someone at my desk, turning off my tv screen when I am talking to my wife in person or someone on the phone, turning off my cell phone ringer when I am at lunch with someone. I know those are simply distractions, but I am easily distracted.
    I think I am beginning to see just how powerful deeply listening can be. VERY few people listen to me in that way. When they do it gives me clarification, healing and encouragment.
    BUT it takes time. Time. Time. That is probably the most valuable commodity we have, especially in our “busy” world. So much of our listening is directly connected to building margin in our lives, spending good time with Jesus each day before we go out and walking in the Spirit.
    I know this is just a brief little blog, but I believe being available and listening deeply can transform our marriages, families, relationships and churches.

  4. Alabama John says:

    To be a listener of others will cause you to be reported as a great conversationalist even if you said nothing!

    You learn far more with your mouth shut.

  5. I like the idea of a “ministry of presence”. A gift of my undivided attention? If we think of a gift’s value as a function of its rarity, this may indeed be a pearl of great price.

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