Christ’s Subversive Strategy of Silence
[Editor’s Note: Why does ChristNow.com host FREE Christ Talks events? How are they subversive? At Christ Talks, you’ll hear eight-minute speeches on the person of Christ by believers from different walks of life.]
As ChristNow.com prepares for our second all-day Christ Talks event on April 23 in State College, PA, the home of Penn State, I reflect back on the impact of the previous one we hosted in Youngstown, Ohio, which was a much more urban setting, with all the diversity among our participants this allows. What excites me about both venues—and what will become obvious with many Christ Talks to come—is this:
When believers from a cross section of ethnic, generational, and denominational streams rise up, one by one, to present eight-minute talks on how they understand the glory and greatness of God’s Son, the Holy Spirit breaks through in powerful ways that can only be described as subversive!
Subversive? That word sounds darkly seditious, doesn’t it? Have you ever thought of God’s kingdom as subversive? Even more, would you mark the King himself as subversive?
More Subversive Than the Resurrection
Writing this past Easter in the national magazine America, James Martin, its Jesuit editor, concluded his column with this provocative observation: “The Resurrection says not only that Christ has the power of life over death, but something more subversive. The Resurrection says, ‘LISTEN.’”
Listening to Jesus’ voice, James Martin claims, will prove more subversive than even Jesus’ permanent overthrow of death itself.
Listening? Doing nothing else but hearing? Just staying silent —how can that be subversive?
Actually, the better question is: How could giving undivided attention to the voice of our living Savior be anything but subversive for any of us?
Said another way: If any of us or if any of our churches truly open ourselves to allow the risen Ruler of Heaven and Earth to have his full sway—that is, to have his full say—what would be left unsubverted?
The dictionary defines subversion as “a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a system or an effort or an individual or a whole nation by persons working from within.” Synonyms include: overcome; demolish; subdue; dethrone; conquer. Or we might say, subversion is when “the world seems turned upside down.”
In light of its meaning I suggest to you that the subversion of the entire universe is God’s ultimate goal in the whole story of redemption. Furthermore, I suggest that listening to Jesus—what I like to call “the strategy of silence”—is the prime way the world (including your world) will get turned upside down.
As the memorable prologue to the book of Hebrews puts it: “. . . in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son . . . The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word [emphasis added].” This recalls the witness of Psalm 29: “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars . . . the voice of the Lord shakes the desert . . . and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ ”
The Voice That Subverts Us
Let me briefly unpack what I call Christ’s subversive strategy of silence.
Quoting from Isaiah 61, Jesus inaugurated his earthly ministry with this claim: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free . . . [emphasis added].”
From the outset Jesus promises that his very words, his voice, will break chains, heal hearts, revolutionize life visions, reset life trajectories—in other words, be subversive.
During Jesus’ transfiguration, the Father stifled confused disciples with the command, “This is my Son. Listen to him [emphasis added].” This was his way to “shake up” everything Peter, James, and John thought they knew about Jesus up to that point. Jesus was inviting them to let him reveal so much more of himself than they had yet seen or heard.
Then decades later, John’s life was once again overwhelmed when he saw Jesus in his ascended glory, with a “sharp, two-edged sword” coming out of his mouth, which was John’s word picture for how penetrating and utterly devastating his Lord’s voice was to him. John had no choice but to fall silent before him like a dead man. Then, in that silence, Jesus totally turned John’s world upside down by unveiling to him the breathtaking sweep of history’s grand consummation through the Lamb’s victorious reign on the throne of heaven.
Or take one more example. When Paul was flattened in silence by his encounter with Christ in glory on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), all he could do was listen. All he could do was wait to hear Christ’s response to the two most crucial questions any of us can ever ask: “Who are you, Lord?” and “What would you have me to do?” The words Paul heard back demolished him so thoroughly, and so permanently, that he writes how his “old” self was gone; he became forever a “new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Completely crucified with Christ, was one way he put it, so that now his only life was Christ and Christ alone (Galatians 2:20).
Once again we see subversion and the radical shift that comes from the strategy of silence.
The Supreme Subverter Draws Near Today
As Lord of the Church, Jesus continues to summon us into seasons of subversion, when he comes among us to overthrow the spiritual status quo in order to take us where we’ve never been before.
In Revelation 3, for instance, he set before the arrogant, self-satisfied Laodicean congregation one final hope of renewal—to stop and listen to him: “If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in . . . those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne . . . Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches [emphasis added].”
Full attention to Jesus’ voice—this was the only solution left for reversing their spiritual free fall. It meant choosing to open themselves wide to Jesus as the head of their congregation, to hear his warning and his call, and to invite him to reenter and conquer them all over again.
It’s the same way he works with his Church today. When Jesus is near subversion is here!
This matches the testimony of saints down through the ages. Whenever individual Christian or churches or even whole generations of believers (as we see in historic episodes of awakenings) open themselves to listen to Christ, he is found to be so ready to speak into our lives in such a way that nothing remains the same.
His is the “voice” described in Hebrews 4: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
If that doesn’t sound like subversion, I don’t know what does!
Christ Talks: Subverting One Another For Jesus’ Sake
This is what makes the unparalleled experience of a Christ Talks event so potent—and so revolutionary in its outcome.
As we listen to each other speak of the wonders of the supremacy of God’s Son, we’re practicing the “strategy of silence.”
We’re humbling ourselves before him by submitting ourselves to each other, to give ear to how Jesus wants to speak to us about himself through those who love him and live in him like we do. And in this way Paul’s experience is replicated with each speaker in a Christ Talks presentation: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf . . .” (2 Corinthians 5).
Christ Talks—a day of us talking to each other about Christ. A day of Christ talking to us about himself. You can’t come out of a day like that and remain the same.
I hope someday soon you will be able to attend a Christ Talks gathering—maybe even sponsor one!— joining fellow disciples in practicing the strategy of silence; hearing the Lord Jesus reveal more of himself as we listen to each other share what he already has revealed to us individually; “[allowing] the message about Christ to dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16).
My desire is that you will experience (in the observation of Dr. Martin) something even more subversive than Christ’s dramatic dethroning of death by his resurrection, as through each speaker we listen to the voice of the One who declared in John 5 [emphasis added]:
I assure you that the time is coming,
indeed it’s here now,
when the dead will hear my voice—
the voice of the Son of God.
And those who listen will live . . .
Don’t be so surprised!
Indeed, the time is coming
when all the dead in their graves
will hear the voice of God’s Son,
and they will rise again . . .
Click here to learn about and register for Christ Talks on April 23 in State College, PA. It’s free!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bryant
Known as a proclaimer of Christ and Messenger of Hope, David Bryant is the founder and president of Proclaim Hope!, a ministry whose goal is to serve a nationwide Christ Awakening. David is the author of five books, including Christ Is ALL! Join in the Joyful Awakening to the Supremacy of God’s Son.