“Idle hands cannot do the Devil’s work!” says concussion-addled Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), frustrated manager and owner of Fawlty Towers, (“The Germans” episode), after his zeal to do good nearly destroyed his hotel and landed him in the hospital.
Everywhere I hear – “all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” There are times when that is true, when silence amounts to cowardly complicity. Paul says that God’s death sentence falls not only on those who do wickedness but those who stand by and approve with their silence. (Romans 1:32) But there are also times when stillness furnishes the most powerful resistance. Our challenge is to know what time it is. We cannot transmit to others a peace we do not know.
God tells nervous Israel on the near side of the Red Sea, “You have only to be still”. (Exodus 14:14) Strange advice and so against nature.
Arguably the greatest music ever written is Bach’s B Minor Mass, which has running throughout, the refrain dona nobis pacem – give us peace.
Can that be enough? Surely not. How will that accomplish anything against so many threats? Our world is anything but still. Silence is “dead air” unless we fill it with something – anything to distract us from our boredom.
Amidst perpetual protest and daily trading outrages, all parties think themselves the “good men” opposing evil and that saying something equates to doing something. It seems the only journalism we have now is what used to be called yellow journalism — that appeals to the worst in us. We need courage to speak for what is right, but it does not follow that the greatest clamor wins, as though we could Twitter ourselves into the Kingdom. Our shrillness confesses our disbelief in a final arbiter – as though God does not exist or does not act – as though the only thing that we matters is our digital footprint – “like and share if you agree”. This practical atheism destroys far more than the theoretical kind because it continues all the while confessing trust in a sovereign God.
Isaiah tells us the Messiah will not lift up his voice nor cry out in the street. (Isaiah 42:2) He need not win by shouting. He knows his power and who controls the times. Even falsely accused, he said little, commending his case to God.
How about this for something radical? Leave silence alone unless you can improve it. Give room for God. The battle is not yours.
“He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Quit trying to be your own father.