Do you listen to each other?
This question has been on my mind all morning and I worry about how the Christian church might honestly answer it if they were honest. . .
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote words that convict me every time I think of them. He wrote:
"So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to 'offer' something when they are together with people. They forget that listening can be a greater service. . . Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either."
Culturally those words should ring in your ear. For how many members of the Body of Christ do not practice a posture of listening to each other? They happily listen to people who affirm and support their worldview or their political leanings, but do they truly just listen? It feels like much of the cultural conversation, both inside and outside the church, is based less upon listening to each other and more on bulldozing and obliterating anyone who does not agree with us.
The danger in this choice is that as we stop listening to one another, we risk no longer hearing God's voice. Slowly we replace the voice of God with a voice that sounds more like our voice and supports our choices and feelings.
But to address this idea, and to begin getting us back on the correct path of discipleship, I wonder if a short story from here at Bethesda will help?
A number of faithful members of the church have been working for months on the second floor of the Christian Education building. Furniture has been thrown out or replaced. New, fresh, coats of paint have been applied. Rooms reorganized and cleaned. Furniture purchased. The building is quite old (not as old as the sanctuary which is over 200 years old). So it needs so 'attention' from time to time.
But as Heidi Neumark reminds us: "With aging churches, the repair work never ends. There is much to dismantle and much to rebuild."
Over the summer I have watched this work being planned and completed from my office--and there is still one more room that needs some attention.
This is a slow process of updating the second floor of the Christian Education building. It is a big job that one person cannot complete without totally exhausting themselves. In this way, the work has been a group project and the results are being seen slowly--but consistently.
We don't re-learn to listen over night. It cannot be even done in one week. But slowly over time, by making some deliberate choices, we can find things around us changing for the better. The second floor of the Christian Education building looks nothing like it did when I first toured it in August of 2021. It has been transformed slowly and consistently and God is with us every step of the way.
I wonder how God might be asking you to grow and listen more attentively to the community around you? Maybe think of the Christian Ed building and practice that same model as you listen again. . .