When I was a kid my mother would sometimes rebuke me when I spoke out of line with the instruction to “zip it.” That, of course, meant that I was to close my lips in such a way that they remained closed—and that I was to do so immediately!
This admonition can sometimes apply to exhorting someone to refrain from speaking in order to be considerate of another. When we are considerate of guarding the wellbeing of another then we sometimes need to zip it and remain silent (Psalm 141:3).
But in this article I want to use this phrase to ask those who do (literally) zip it, to stop and think before they do so. Later may be better than immediately.
A few weeks ago I received an email from a church member telling me that he finds himself being distracted at the end of the services by all of the zippers in action. I suppose that these are Bible covers or perhaps even the older children’s zipper Bibles. This member said that, as the Word has been preached and the sermon nears the end, and then as we close in prayer, he finds himself unable to focus because of the noise that he hears.
To be honest I had never given much notice to this until he raised the issue. But now my ears are sensitised! Some may say, “Big deal!” or, “Get over it!” If that is your response let me rather caution you to take the high road of being considerate.
For example, perhaps those who preach can be considerate and wait until the last zip is heard before we pray, and perhaps those who zip can train themselves to wait until the last amen to pack up. Of course, to zip or not to zip is not the question. The larger issue here is simply this: All of us who make up the sanctuary of God must learn to think of the comfort and spiritual wellbeing of others as we gather for corporate worship. After all, having battled all week with distractions to our worship, the last place we want to encounter more distraction is with believers as we gather on the Lord’s Day. So, in order to minimise zipper noise let me offer the following for your consideration to develop an ongoing consideration of others.
Do you consider the distraction that you might be to others as you make a beeline to the toilets during the closing hymn? Are you considerate of others as you contemplate leaving the auditorium to get that glass of water? Do you consider that maybe you could wait a few minutes longer to quench your thirst? And with reference to listening, does your body language help or hinder speaker and hearer, or are you a source of distraction? Do you arrive on time for the service? If you need to enter the auditorium after the service begins, do you enter in a distracting way or at an inopportune time (such as prayer)?
There are several other practical areas I could mention, but I am sure that you get the point. Let us be committed to making maximum use of our opportunity to worship God with the maximum amount of focus—both for us and for those who worship with us. By all means, zip it—but in this case I would have to disagree with my mother: We should zip it later rather than sooner!