Is Silence Always Golden?

Luke 22:54-65   “Silence is Golden.” But not all the time! To be silent is a right. To speak is a privilege, but it can also be a duty. Keeping your mouth shut might save you from the reserve wrath of the bully. But how do you feel when you go to bed that night? Could your words or actions have saved the victim? And does your silence guarantee that the bully won’t turn on you tomorrow? Clearly, there are times when our preferred response should be silence, and other times when it would be wrong. May God give us the wisdom to know when to be silent and when to speak, and then, what to say and how to act.

In Luke 22:54-65, we read of the commencement of the suffering of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. At the center is the record of Peter’s three denials that were predicted by Jesus. Peter’s crime was not that he kept silent. His crime was that he denied Jesus. On this occasion, Peter had every intention of keeping silent, and that would have been what Jesus would have wanted. Not too long before, when Jesus foretold his suffering and alluded to the death by which He would die, Peter was the one who sprang to His defense, and said, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!” As was later proven, Peter no doubt was trying to say, “I would never allow this to happen to you.” What did he get for his troubles from Jesus? “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:23)
And at the time of Jesus’ arrest, when Peter realized that the prediction of Jesus about his death was about to be fulfilled, he drew his sword, drew first blood, and by doing that, declared that he was ready to fight to the death to protect Jesus. What did he get for his troubles from Jesus? Jesus rebuked him, picked up the lopped-off ear, and re-attached it to the head of his attacker. In addition, Jesus assured Peter that He was not a ‘victim’. It was God’s will that His arrest and subsequent suffering should take place. Regardless, if Jesus wanted, He could request the instant dispatch of thousands of angels, any one of which could immediately annihilate the entire arrest party.

Finally, the Bible says that all of Jesus’ disciples fled, and that would have included Peter. It was most remarkable of Peter therefore to sneak back to witness first hand, the deadly details of the suffering that Jesus had predicted. He certainly had no intention of offering resistance, a second time. All he wanted to do was to be near Jesus, and to be silent, and to provide moral support for Him, while all the other disciples had fled. Given his determination to be present, Jesus would have wanted nothing more from Peter, than to be silent, and let His Father’s will be done.

It was against this backdrop of Peter’s praise-worthy determination to be present with his Lord, even though all he could do was watch in silence, that this unassuming servant girl catches him completely off-guard and by surprise. Without a moment’s thought, and consistent with his under-cover operation, Peter denies knowing Jesus and being one of His disciples. The first denial was the hardest. The requirements of consistency took care of the other two. It took the crow of the rooster, and that tender, loving look from Jesus to completely demolish Peter’s emotional composure. He went outside and wept bitterly.

But there are many other occasions on which to be silent or passive, or inactive is definitely wrong. The “Great Commission” is predicated on our speaking up and backing our speech with the appropriate action. This is not a part-time occupation. It is a full time ministry.

Believers in Jesus Christ live in a real world of sin. Wrong and evil will be around us most, if not all of the time. God expects us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, and He has undertaken to provide us the wisdom to know how to act in every situation. At this point a bit of clarity about what it really means to “speak up” would help.

“Speaking up” is not limited to the spoken word. For instance if a Christian boy sees a bully taking advantage of another boy, the wise thing might very well be to summon the prefect or some other authority. In the adult world, it might be the appropriate thing to call the police.
But what if immediate action is necessary? Whether we call for help or decide to help ourselves, our first reaction should always be to pray. I know that this is easier done when we feel that we cannot handle the situation ourselves, and that is precisely why we should discipline ourselves to ask for God’s help and guidance even when we think that we can handle the situation ourselves.
Today, I have a bullet in my leg because I went to the assistance of someone who was yelling for help. A second bullet was aimed directly at my head from less than 6 inches away. After about 5 seconds of Holy Ghost initiated evasive action, the gunman missed my head, and hit my finger instead. Was I in the will of God or not? The truth is, I did not pray before I acted. And what if in fact God had sent me? And what if, had He not sent me, the bullet might have hit me in the head. Clearly there are no clear rules… just principles.

Finally, keeping silent or refusing to act is not wrong only in the case of an individual committing an atrocity, or acting clearly contrary to Godly principles. The principle equally applies to private and public entities and even Governments. When a corporation is guilty of actions that offend the standards of the Word of God, the Christian is expected to say so in the most effective way possible. Would involvement in a public protest be too much to ask? Would writing a letter to the press be crossing the line? By boycotting the products of the company and encouraging others to do the same we would effectively have refused to be silent.

The Bible tells us that there are several things that God hates, and many of them have to do with oppression of the poor, widows and orphans. Is it justifiable for Christians to refuse to speak up and act up against such oppression and injustice wherever it is discovered?

In the final analysis, principles are broad guidelines based on our understanding of the Word of God and its relevance to the culture in which we live. Individual Christians will have to lean on the guidance of the Holy Spirit for wisdom to act in every situation. However, one thing is clear. Speaking up and refusing to be silent will come at a price, and perhaps a very high price. So here is the question. Is the price for you, worth the pleasure of having God’s smile of approval?

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