There are many situations in life when people attempt to judge another's silence. We often judge silence more harshly than we judge speech. In fact, there is a large group of people within the body of Christ who think that "interpretation of silence" is one of the nine gifts of the Spirit. And they feel they have been gifted in this way.
The Bible calls them "busybodies" and those who "sow discord among the brethren." These people insists on knowing where you stand on issues that matter to them. If an issue is of no consequence to them, then they couldn't care less about your opinion. But if an issue is important to them, you must speak or be considered an enemy.
The person gifted with the iOS (interpretation of silence), will use any means necessary to force you to speak. They will threaten you with hot button labels like "compromiser." To which they expect that we will respond by saying, "Nooooo, not a compromiser. Anything but that. I will talk. Just don't call me a compromiser." They will almost always throw out deep quotes about the vice of silence. Bonhoeffer is their favorite: "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."
But what does the Bible have to say about silence?
Ecclesiastes 3:7 teaches us that there is a time to keep silence. There are times that silence is not a vice, but silence is a virtue. This means that one shouldn't speak to certain issues in certain situations. What are some reasons why one should keep silence?:
- One should keep silence when speaking would break confidence.
- One should keep silence when they are not authorized to speak.
- One should keep silence when they are not qualified to speak.
- One should keep silence when someone is soliciting information from them for the purpose of using it against them.
- One should keep silence when the mistrust they person attempting to make them speak.
- One should keep silence when speaking would require that they speak contrary to their convictions.
- One should keep silence when they are uncertain what to say or what they think about the question.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:27-28
Silence says you are a smart man. Silence speaks so convincingly that is persuades the public that even fools are wise and intelligent.
We should all reserve the right to remain silent. And we should all extend the right to silence to others without suspiciously reading anything into it.