Faith and Family

Jones: The silence of love

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Love bears all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Another translates the phrase, “Love knows how to be silent.”

Lynn Jones

That is an interesting translation. Halford Luccock pointed out that we generally think of love in terms of activism. Love knows how to help a friend. Love knows how to speak a word of encouragement and comfort. But, “Love knows how to be silent?”

The truth of the matter is that love does know how to be silent. Some situations cry for silence. That runs counter to the nature of most of us. We feel that we have to fix things. We must say something to solve the problem.

The noise that something makes is not an indicator of its importance. Thomas Carlyle said, “When the oak tree is felled, the whole forest echoes with the sound of it; but a hundred acorns are planted silently by some unnoticed breeze.” So it is with the importance of the silence of love. 

The silence of love is not indifference. It is not merely a lack of something to say. It is a way of communicating. Just as silence is needed to hear a watch ticking, so silence is needed to hear a heart beating.

There is the silence of love when someone makes a mistake. Our tendency is to let loose a barrage of criticism and advice. We often play the part of a district attorney. We are full of charges and indictments.

Great grief demands silence. Words are a noisy sacrilege. When Job had experienced his awful losses, three friends came to see him. “They sat down upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word to him; for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). It was the most effective ministry they had. After they began speaking, they brought more hurt than help.

Worship demands silence. We live in a noisy, chattering age. In worship, God invites us, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Parenthood demands silence. Every parent knows the agony of silence while a child is making a decision. Everything within us cries out to make the decision for the child, but love refuses to let us do it. We often must allow our children the great but glorious risk of growth. It is the way our heavenly Father most often relates to us.

Loving trust demands silence. Suspicion is always demanding explanations. It can never rest until everything has been explained. Trust asks no hesitant questions even when baffled.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:1, 7). 

Love is sensitive to that timing. “Love knows how to be silent” (1 Cor. 13:7). Some of our most powerful messages are communicated by loving silences.

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