Just as there is a time for listening so also there’s a time for speaking. I’m not referring to preaching from the pulpit, but rather to the off-the-cuff encouragement of a fitting word.
The Bible has a lot to say about this important aspect of Christian life. Ephesians 4:15 says we are to “speak the truth in love to one another.” And Colossians 3:16 tells us to let the word dwell in us so we can admonish one another in all wisdom.
Yet, this kind of living is no easy feat. We can only do it when we have listened, actively helped, and borne one another’s burdens. Speaking into the life or struggles of another believer must be done with understanding and love. And when we speak those words, they should be from a place of humility and awareness of our own need. Lastly, we should speak as those who are willing to receive both encouragement and rebuke in our own lives.
The late pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, touches on this in his book, Life Together. In it, he roots the ministry of proclaiming in New Testament passages such as James 4:11-12 and Ephesians 4:29.
Rather than speaking ill of others, judging or condemning, asserting our authority, seeking control through comments, getting a jab in, or putting others in their place, Bonhoeffer encourages believers like myself to lift others up, affirm and encourage one another, point to God’s promises, give thanks rather than grumble, speak of our own need for mercy, and testify to God’s faithfulness.
Bonhoeffer adds that at times, our words might wound in order to heal. He cautions: “We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s severity.”
What Bonhoeffer is getting at is that if we cannot speak and hear encouragements and exhortations, or commands, something is out of balance.
But when we speak the wisdom of God’s Word rather than our own opinions, we can have greater confidence that our words of truth will be gracious, and that our words of grace will be truthful. And when our words are gracious and truthful, they are more likely to produce fruit in our own lives and the lives of those we speak into.
This article was originally published at https://indycrowe.com/2019/05/15/help-from-bonhoeffer-on-humility-and-unity/.