“Stifle it, Edith, just stifle it.”
A certain segment of folks will immediately recognize this line from the popular TV sit-com “All In the Family” which ran nine seasons 1971-1979. Carol O-Conner starred as the bigoted and ignorant Archie Bunker opposite his loving, doting, submissive but somewhat dim-witted wife Edith, played by Jean Stapleton.
Whenever Edith would run off down verbal bunny trails or into details insignificant to Archie he would silence her ramblings with an abrupt, mean-faced scowl, “Edith, Stifle!” Edith would often apologize but always obediently comply.
While this sort of interplay can be humorous or even endearing in the sit-com world, in the real world it’s just down-right ignorant! ‘It ain’t no way to treat a lady,’ and it’s certainly no way to treat the Holy Spirit!
When we tell another person, or the Person of the Holy Spirit, to “stifle” we are by definition cutting off their voice, literally, their “breath.” The concept is akin to suffocation. The Bible calls this “grieving,” and In relation to the Holy Spirit we are commanded point blank not to do it: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” (Eph. 4:30).
But sadly, the very first entity in the scriptures described as being “grieved” is the Lord! “…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and…was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Gen. 6:5-7).
In fact God was so grieved with us that He decided He would erase humankind from the face of the earth! Thankfully, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and we were given another chance.
To grieve a person means to cause them to suffer, to bring them distress in some manner. To do this to the precious Holy Spirit of God is a terrible thing! When we remember the Holy Spirit is often represented as a dove, imagine such an innocent and gentle creature being tormented or tortured by some heartless sadist – or imagine your own beloved pet being handled in this way.
Jude writes of “ungodly people” who “heap abuse on celestial beings,” contrasting them with the archangel Michael, who dared not condemn even the devil but rather deferred even this most obvious judgment to God (see Jude v.8-9). Unless they repent, Jude says “blackest darkness” awaits them for ever (v.13).
It is the Holy Spirit Who warns of dangers along our path… Who teaches us and reminds us of Truth… Who convicts us of matters we need to present to the Lord or make right with our brothers / sisters in Christ. It is He Who produces the fruit of the Spirit within us and manifests the gifts of the Spirit through us. It is His voice above all others which we must hear and heed. How foolish indeed it would be to stifle Him.