A Time to Keep Silemt
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak…
The motivation for our Gospel-centered prolife Ministry, Cities4Life, is a love of God who tells us clearly that we are to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We are the voice for the unborn children about to be slaughtered in an abortion.
Countless times in the Bible we are told to proclaim truth and speak against evil. We are to go to the ends of the earth telling others the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We are even told that if we do not warn others of the effect of their sin, we are guilty of their destruction!
Ezekiel 3:18-19 If I say to the wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but you do not warn him—you don’t speak out to warn him about his wicked way in order to save his life—that wicked person will die for his iniquity. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person and he does not turn from his wickedness or his wicked way, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.
However, Solomon who was considered the wisest man in the world tells us that there is a time to speak…but there is also a time to keep silent. Is that true even when an unborn child’s life is on the line? How do we know when to be silent?
There is clearly a silence that proceeds out of cowardice. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expresses that truth in his well known quote:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.”
Nonetheless, the Bible does extol the virtue of silence as well. The passage cited earlier from Ecclesiastes is not the only passage about the value of silence:
Ecclesiastes 9:17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Proverbs 17:28 Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
Proverbs 29:11 A fool lets fly with all his temper, but a wise person keeps it back.
Proverbs 10:19 Transgression is at work where people talk too much, but anyone who holds his tongue is prudent.
Proverbs 21:23 Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Proverbs 18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame
See similar scripture and content below
A Time to Keep Silent and it’s importance:
Silence is important to help us to refrain from anger, to listen and clearly understand and heed wisdom, to stay out of trouble or evil, and to be thoughtful before speaking.
I believe these verses, and others from the Bible, illustrate six key areas in which we should be silent in prolife ministry.
- Be silent to reduce conflict
Tensions are high in prolife discussions, but none more so than in front of abortion centers. It is often a very volatile situation, with passions and anger easily inflamed. If someone is furious with our words and becomes explosive or threatening, it is usually counterproductive to keep speaking. The Bible tells us that any fool can provoke a quarrel. Our silence can defuse escalating fury.
- Be silent in order to carefully listen
If a woman is willing to come talk to us, the very first step in that tenuous connection is to ask her questions and then carefully listen to her responses. Seek first to understand, then it is easier to wisely speak to be understood. If we are talking, we are not learning what the issues are that need to be addressed. No one likes to be lectured when they have not asked for a lecture. But almost everyone likes to share their burdens to an understanding and listening ear. Our silence as we listen can be the important first step in establishing trust.
- Be silent to control one’s speech
It is easy to become preachy, arrogant, angry, or condescending, especially when we are certain we are right and someone else is wrong. There is no doubt that abortion is wrong, but how we convey that truth including the words we use, the tone we use, and the attitude we use will often determine how well it is received. A time of silence to collect our thoughts and be careful in our speech can mean the difference between someone willing to hear us or not.
- Be silent in the face of great suffering
Sometimes there are truly tragic and sad circumstances we encounter in the lives of the women at the abortion center. Some carry a deceased baby and can only afford a D and C at the less expensive abortion center. Some have incompletely miscarried a child they deeply wanted. Some have tubal pregnancies. Some have been raped. Some are victims of sexual trafficking or abuse. We need to speak truth when the child is still living about the evil of abortion, but sometimes our silent compassion at critical points in our interactions speak more powerfully than our words. Sometimes, there really is nothing we can say. We can just mourn with them.
- Be silent to let the words that have been spoken have time to sink in.
Sometimes we speak so much that it overwhelms the recipient. A word aptly spoken is more precious than apples of gold, the Bible says. It is interesting to contemplate the term “pregnant pause”. We all know the value of that “pregnant pause.” In pregnancy, that pause is 9 months long to give the new mother time to adjust, adapt, and get used to the idea as well as prepare for the baby. The “pregnant pause” in conversation has a similar purpose. When we pause in silence and let what we have already implanted in their heart have time to seep in, it tends to develop and grow with a life all its own.
- Be silent to let the Holy Spirit work
It is in silence that the psalmist waits for God.
Psalm 62:5-6 My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.
Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.
The Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible for changing someone’s heart, not our words. We are clearly told to speak, but we don’t necessarily have to fill every second with our voice. Our voice might well drown out the Spirit’s voice.
Many women whom I have counseled over the years have told me that they hear us call out as they enter the abortion center. They often report that during the next three hours of waiting for the abortionist, our words echo in their head. They sometimes remember truths from their childhood about God. They hear His voice in the silence. That is our ultimate goal, after all, that our voices recede, and the voice of God fills their head and guides their heart.