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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When silence speaks loudly

When have you been more impressed by what someone did NOT say than the many times you have actually heard someone say MUCH about the subject?  In fact, when we see someone enduring much pressure and they choose to not say anything ill about another or to stand in strength against the attacks of others, we marvel.  It does happen, just not as often as would probably be appropriate.  It just does not come naturally for us to NOT defend ourselves.  When we feel threatened, or misunderstood, what is the first thing we do?  We "rise up" to defend our reputation, or to make ourselves known, don't we? 

At dawn's first light, the high priests, with the religious leaders and scholars, arranged a conference with the entire Jewish Council. After tying Jesus securely, they took him out and presented him to Pilate.  Pilate asked him, "Are you the 'King of the Jews'?"  He answered, "If you say so." The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations.  Pilate asked again, "Aren't you going to answer anything? That's quite a list of accusations." Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed.  (Mark 15:1-4 The Message)

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.  (Proverbs 10:19 NIV)

In another translation, this passage from Proverbs reads that when there is a whole lot of talking, there is likely less truth.  The wise learn to "measure" their words - they learn when it is wise to speak and when silence speaks louder than any words!  Now, I don't know about you, but my struggle comes in learning how to balance the two - silence and words.  The only thing I have found to be true is when I give full vent to my thoughts (through words), I often regret the words I speak!

Jesus was railed upon by the leaders - hurling all manner of accusation upon him from the untruth that he was from Satan to the fact he was on this earth to overthrow the Roman Empire.  Yet, he chose to use silence to speak the truth sometimes more than he used the "speeches" of a man defending his actions!  If you have read scripture much, you have come across the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  She is drug to the camp of Jesus one day by the leaders of the temple.  They "show off" her sinfulness by telling Jesus they caught her in the very act!  There she stands, humiliated not only once, but multiple times.  What was his response?

He chose to squat down, in silence, drawing something in the dust on the ground.  Imagine the outrage building in the minds of the religious leaders at that moment.  They were likely saying to themselves, "See...he is too weak to even deal with this blatant deed of sinfulness!!!"  All the while, Jesus allowed them to "build up" their steam over this issue.  Then in one moment of well prepared words, he simply states, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."  Then he returns to doodling in the dust.  

Put yourself there.  You have a full head of steam worked up, then get this bomb dropped on you!  Drat!  There you are - ready for a good stoning - then just as quickly as you got caught up in the frenzy of the crowd, you get "called out" for your action - not by a multitude of words, but by one simple statement.  Double Drat!  If you know the rest of the story, then you know the crowd of "worked up" leaders disperse one-by-one and Jesus is left alone with the woman.  He says nothing else to them.  He neither defends their actions, nor does he seek to give a lengthy rationale for the deed they intend to carry out.

There is often more conviction in what is NOT said!  They were undone by one wisely spoken statement and a whole lot of silence!  Jesus listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  He knew the best way of teaching forgiveness was not going to be to "convince" the crowd through a dissertation on the will of God.  Instead, he chose to allow them to "boil" a little until they were good and worked up.  Then...as quickly as they built their outrage, he undoes it with simply spoken words!

As we look at Jesus before Pilate, Jesus did answer him - with one simple statement - "If you say so".  Yet, look at the reaction of the crowd - they hurled accusations even louder.  The thing I don't want us to miss is how easy it is to get caught up in the "herd mentality"!  We may not really have a "side" in the matter, but in short order, because of the fact words can incite us more easily than we think, we can find ourselves caught up!  Jesus' response - silence.  

Pilate was more impressed with his silence when his accusers hurled these accusations than anything else.  I wonder if Jesus was more impressed with the woman's shame over her sinful deed than he was with the railings of the religious leaders?  Maybe her silence spoke more to him than rantings of the crowd...

In thinking about this today, I have asked the Holy Spirit to make me more sensitive about my words.  My goal is to know when I am getting caught up into the "herd mentality" and allowing this to affect my actions.  I want to learn to be wise in my words - to really learn that wisdom is often more evident in the silence than in the multitude of my words!  Maybe you are with me in this journey.  If so, I am praying for you!  May our silence speak as loudly, or louder, than our words!