They Fell Silent

by Jacob Hudgins

man at computer contemplatingWhen they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’”(Acts 11:18).

Peter had been called to task for his visit to Cornelius’ house. “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them”(Acts 11:3). Peter then tells his story, complete with visions, the intervention of the Holy Spirit, and angels. Only when he had finished his story does Scripture say “they fell silent.” They were wrong. He was right.

What did you ever learn while talking? Silence is important because we need to learn. Important truths can be imparted and explained, deep concepts thoroughly explored, but not if we are constantly interrupting and challenging. It is no coincidence that James’ instruction to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” is closely associated in the text with “(receiving) with meekness the implanted word”(James 1:19, 21). Silence allows us to gather our thoughts if rebuttal is needed, but also gives the proper sense of humility that should accompany the study of God’s word.

Did you ever change your mind while talking? It is very rare to begin saying one thing and finish saying the opposite. What is far more effective is listening in attentive silence, allowing the truths of God’s word to challenge and affect us. The Jewish Christians who challenged Peter knew they were wrong, and silence, followed by humble admission was the only right response. Far too often we spend our time shouting down challenges to our way of thinking, calling those who speak them ugly names, and digging our heels in against opposition. One small thought should trouble us: what if they are right and we are wrong? Silence allows room for change.

In none of this am I saying that we should give room for error or allow false ideas to go uncorrected. Jesus did not do so (John 14:2), and Paul did not “yield in submission even for a moment”(Gal 2:5). We cannot afford to permit lies to spread, but there must remain a place in it all for quiet, patient self-examination.

I am challenged and humbled by the example of these Jewish brethren. When faced with a gut-check conflict between their lifelong notions of propriety and the clear purpose of God, they swallowed their pride and admitted their error. They fell silent. Will we?

Last modification: Thu 21 Mar 2019