Proclaiming Christ Through Silence

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While in seminary, I took a class on a theologian by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. More than a theologian, Bonhoeffer was a pastor, teacher of pastors, a prophet, and finally, a martyr. Having grown up in Germany, Bonhoeffer played an active role in the resistance movement against Hitler and his Third Reich government which ultimately cost Bonhoeffer his own life. As a theologian, Bonhoeffer was prolific, having written thousands of pages of biblical and theological commentary. One line from his lectures on the person and work of Christ convicts me more and more deeply as I continue to serve as a pastor and preacher in the local church: “To speak of Christ is to be silent, and to be silent about Christ is to speak.”

Sometimes I wonder if the church is talking too much, such that the voice of Christ is drowned out by all the noise. I wonder if we’re talking too much about preserving the cultural values of nationalism and partisan politics, and, as a result, the gospel of God’s love revealed in Christ on the cross is set aside. I wonder if the voice of Christ that compels us to go into the world—to go outward and not remain inwardly focused—is shouted out by our own cries for institutional survival. Sometimes I wonder if our focus on “saving souls” has muffled Christ’s call of the church to also feed, clothe, and educate them. Yes, sometimes I wonder if the church is talking too much and the voice of Christ is drowned out by all the noise.

Indeed, Bonhoeffer continues: “The church’s speech through silence is the right way to proclaim Christ.” I believe the church out to keep silent, so that through our silence, Christ might speak. This happens, I believe, when the church’s life is governed and shaped by the voice of Christ that comes through the witness of Holy Scripture faithfully read and proclaimed. The word of Christ in scripture does not serve as a pretext for own cultural and political ideologies. Rather, this word convicts us, challenges us, reforms us, and shows us who we truly are and what we ought to be doing as Christ has willed it.

(Rev. Will Wilson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore. Contact him at revwillwilson@gmail.com)

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