Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Quiet Love: A Difficult Decision

About the author: Letitia Tappa is a blogger, graphic designer, and soon-to-be veterinary assistant. She lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, 2 teenaged kids, and an ever-changing assortment of animals. She blogs about parenting teens for Examiner.com, and about her life surrounded by animals.

We live in a loud society. There is little space for peace and quiet unless you live in a rural area. In the suburbs, there is the atmospheric noise of an overhead jet, the traffic on a nearby street, or the neighbor’s dog. People too, seem to have developed the habit of loudness. Maybe it’s because we feel unheard, or because we live in a noisy world. We have what I call “yelling shows”, where what starts as a civil discussion ends up in yelling, usually all participants at once. Talk shows from all political angles are equally guilty of this behavior. Is this the love that Jesus asked us to show one another? And is love a loud feeling or behavior?

Everyone has heard… Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34, NIV), but what does this mean? Is Jesus talking about people who do not share our political viewpoint? Is Jesus talking about North African dictators and serial killers? Perhaps Jesus’ point in all this is that we humans are all flawed sinners. He left us many parables illustrating how sin is human and forgiveness is what is expected of us if we are to expect forgiveness for ourselves. This forgiving love is not a loud, boastful behavior, as Paul tells us ("If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal" I Cor. 13:1, NIV). It is a quiet pause of the soul, a decision to love instead of hate and to take the higher road, the narrower path. So how exactly does one love the dictator or serial killer? Perhaps by praying for the person’s soul, and remembering that they like we, are a flawed human being, maybe more so than ourselves. Perhaps we do not cheer when s/he is executed, but rather pray for the victims and their loved ones. Perhaps we quietly show love instead of a vengeful celebration of another person’s death.

This is easier said than done. How would you possibly do this if your loved one was the victim of the dictator or killer? Most of us would certainly choose revenge, injuring ourselves too in the loud bitterness and anger that would most certainly wash over a person in that situation. But we are taught that love can quiet the heart and soothe the soul. I don’t know how the Amish community chose love instead of revenge when 10 little girls were gunned down while at school, in cold blood (5 survived the shooting). It seemed almost super-human to the rest of us, but the Amish have it right: it is what God requires.

But what happens when there is injustice in the world? Shouldn’t we speak out? I’m thinking recently of the Occupy protests taking place around the world. Do these exhibit quiet love? People will disagree about this. But nonviolent protest certainly can exhibit quiet love. It means not berating the police officers. It means that you are choosing the loving way to point out injustice, similar to the way a parent would correct a child, with discussion and by example. It means not engaging in yelling matches and name-calling with the opposition. It means understanding that your quiet presence and your quiet refusal to leave can be as loud as any other behavior you might exhibit. But this also comes at a cost, as nonviolent protestors of the past have discovered. It may require your own sacrifice to pain and suffering, or the indignity of being arrested and mistreated, sometimes to the point of death, as Jesus and many others throughout history have discovered.

This advent season, consider: what is quiet love? What does it mean to conduct yourself as a human sinner among other human sinners? Who have you seen exhibiting this quiet love, even in the midst of strife? There are many examples. It is not our natural way, by any means. But it is the better way, the required way as God teaches us repeatedly. To Christians this advent season, God’s most memorable lesson in quiet love came by way of an infant boy, born quietly in a stable into our loud and calamitous world. It’s a lesson that I’m not sure we have learned yet.