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Following Jesus

When Silence Speaks

January 22, 2019 by

“You voted on the basis of being against abortion!? Is that all!?”

“Yeah, what of it?”

“That’s crazy! This is an issue Jesus never even mentioned once!”

“How can you be so stupid?! He didn’t have to. Killing babies is murder!”

So went a recent heated exchange between two friends of mine.

Among many Christians today I repeatedly hear how Jesus didn’t concern himself with sexual matters. Gene Robinson, for instance, the first ordained open and practicing same-sex bishop in the Episcopal Church, once asked this question, “What does Jesus say about homosexuality?” His answer: “Absolutely nothing.” The assumption is that silence equals permission.

I know that Jesus didn’t use words such as “homosexuality” or “abortion.” He also never said anything about sexual abuse, the death penalty, cheating on exams, healthcare, semi-automatic weapons, substance abuse, the environment, animal torture, or a whole host of other matters that concern us today. But this doesn’t mean he didn’t have anything to say about these topics.

Arguments from silence show a huge misunderstanding of what obedience to Scripture means. If we think that the Bible is only relevant where it gives us explicit instructions – “do this, don’t do that” – then we are denying much of its rightful authority over our lives.

Silence is a two-edged sword. Yes, silence speaks, but only if our hearts are listening. In my family, my wife and I have never had to lay down the law with our daughter regarding sex and saving it for the one she will marry. Does she know how we feel? Does she know what Scripture says about saving sex for marriage? Absolutely.

If we think that the Bible is only relevant where it gives us explicit instructions then we are denying much of its rightful authority over our lives.

Jesus didn’t have to say much about sex because the most important thing about it had already been said. Thus, regarding the dubious and exploitive practice of divorce, Jesus simply said, “Haven’t you heard from the beginning…?” Go back to Genesis 1 and 2: Male and female, God created them both in his image. It is not good for man to be alone. Husband and wife are bound to each other for life, one flesh. What God joins together no one should separate. (Matthew 19).

That’s about it. Jesus didn’t address cohabitation, or temple prostitution, or men having sex with boys, or changing one’s gender. He might have, had these been issues among his Jewish audience. Even so, I dare say we already know what Jesus would say: Go back to Genesis.

And if that’s not clear enough, we must simply turn to the testimony and lifestyle of Christ’s first followers, because in actuality, if it is proof texts we want, then the Bible is not the place to go – not if we’re honestly looking for moral and spiritual guidance. The Bible is not a rulebook. It provides something much better: a picture of who God is and the kind of people who faithfully bear his name. This is why God came in the flesh – to show us what it means to be truly human. “In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son,” writes the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 1: 2). Christ’s character, his very person, the narrative of his life, death, and resurrection, point us in a direction that far out-distances any list of commands.

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By looking to Jesus, and not just hunting for “do’s and don’ts,” we learn what God wills and what it means to be transformed. When we look to Jesus, we don’t need everything “said” or spelled out. The very trajectory of Jesus’ life speaks for itself, more than a thousand words can. In other words, what Jesus doesn’t say with his mouth, he clearly speaks with his life. He welcomes and blesses the littlest of children, even those who are still waiting to be born (e.g., Luke 1:39-45). He trespasses social taboos that keep people apart, associating with those who are unlike and even against him. He refuses to retaliate and take revenge, even if he was justified in doing so. He honors the dignity of the worst sinners – prostitutes, adulterers, swindlers, even pious hypocrites.

By looking to Jesus, a child refugee and one who had no place to lay his head, we learn to travel light of possessions, give to the poor, and walk to the other side of the road to lend a helping hand. By looking to Jesus, celibate and single as he was, a man full of tenderness among hurting women who have been shamed, we learn to treasure the “thou” in each person we meet. By looking to Jesus, and the cross he bore, we need not fear or become frantic about death. Suffering can have meaning. There is something better in store than this life.

Scripture is God’s story that ultimately coalesces in Christ (1 Peter 1:10–12). He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, whatever the social or moral issue, let us step back and listen to Christ’s life. What he said and what he didn’t say always agree. And let us remember, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). The question to us: do we?


About the author

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore and his wife Leslie live in Denver, CO, where they form a small house community with friends and visitors...

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  • Tremendously blessed by your Blog & The Plough! Thanks, in Jesus, for sending these to me. Hope to visit again in October! Stay safe & warm & cozy & keep praying!

    Pat Wieczynski
  • I appreciate what Kevin expresses. The Bible is indeed more than a code book. It gives witness to the Living Word. When we truly look at the life and teachings of Christ, we are pointed in a given direction. It's far more important to consider what Jesus would do than to mindlessly following his commands.

    Charles Moore
  • A very good article. Too many times I’ve heard people say “the Bible doesn’t say anything about (fill in the blank)”. That was the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s ruling behind on gay marriage. You could also talk about written rules being twisted severely- like appealing to the Second Amendment to defend the sale of submachine guns to the public. In both cases, it’s the spirit of the law that counts since no document can address every circumstance that can arise, now and in the future. That’s why the Bible is called the Living Word.

    Kevin Cushing
  • Well said...thank you and God bless you.

    Bill Canonico