Silence Speaks Volumes

There are many situations in which silence is the best response–indeed, often, “silence is golden!” But silence all the time, or at the wrong time, “speaks volumes,” though not the message we need to be sending.

I often think of my students from rural Alabama whose Christian parents were terrific but only had a high school education. Many of these students came to our campus for the first time away from home. After over four, five, or six years of study, they never once heard anything positive about Christianity from a highly educated professor.

Our campus had, and has, many Christian profs, but we are too often and too consistently silent.

We are silent even in our own offices, where we have more control than anywhere else. And silence here really speaks volumes. A small cross, a Bible, a poster, or a picture would communicate positively to those wanting to hear a supportive word about following Christ.

Somewhat more challenging, but more effective, is to break the silence in the classroom. A word here speaks volumes. Before-class or after-class chit-chat about church, a mission trip, or a Bible passage could plant a seed of interest. An introduction of our own belief in Christ might be enough to prick some real interest.

An invitation to lunch to discuss “anything besides class material” may give you an opportunity to break the silence about how a highly educated, thoughtful person could believe that a relationship with Jesus is possible and highly profitable.

I am tempted to “mind my own business” and keep silent. My fear silences me. But then I think about the steadily rising suicide rate, the current epidemic of loneliness, the eternal consequences of choosing that broad path that leads to destruction, and know that my silence may miss the opportunity to help those who are perishing.

Yes, the temptation on campus is to be silent and to let our life testify to the truth of the Christ. But I have atheist colleagues who also model a positive, compassionate life.  With a few words fitly spoken (Prov 25:11), I want my students to know that it’s Christ in me that gives me true life.

Brothers and sisters, let us always speak with our actions, but let us also be alert for opportunities to use our words.

Let us invite students and colleagues to tell us about their worldviews and how they chose them. Let us ask them about their hypotheses about what happens after we die. Let us ask them about where they draw hope, purpose, and meaning to live life when it gets hard. 

And let us be ready to break the silence about the hope that is within us.

Our atheist colleagues never seem reluctant to speak. They are fearless. Let’s not let our fear of criticism stop us from speaking words of truth when opportunities present themselves, and let us always be alert for these opportunities.

Indeed, silence speaks volumes!

Phil Bishop

Emeritus Prof of Kinesiology

University of Alabama

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