“What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few weeks ago I was in Toronto with a group of students and adults from my church. We were spread out all over the city hanging cards on bikes to promote the free bike repair clinic we were doing in the middle of the city the following day. As we walked the busy streets, we heard car horns blaring. Long, extended car horns, from multiple cars. At first, we didn’t know what was going on. But after a while it became clear there was something coordinated happening. All of the cars laying on their horns were cabs. Some had signs in their windows slamming Uber, the app-based transportation network that is gaining popularity in cities across the world.
This was a protest.
The same cabs were making a loop around the city of Toronto, blowing their horns the entire time, making it known to everyone on the streets their belief that Uber is unlawful and unfair. No matter where you walked, all you could hear was the loud and consistent sound of car horns.
It was extremely annoying.
At some point along our walk, almost every person in our group remarked about how they were now ardent supporters of Uber, even if they didn’t know anything about it before, just based on the frustratingly loud and irritating protests of the cab drivers in Toronto.
It fascinated me that the very thing these cab drivers were protesting against became the more desirable option, by far, simply based on the way they went about expressing their opposition.
This happens to us in our relationships sometimes when we see someone we love drifting away or getting off track. When repeated attempts to get their attention don’t work, we may become frustrated and make our concerns or warnings louder and more frequent. We nag our spouse, harp on our teen’s behavior, express concern at our friend’s emotional distance. When nothing changes, we may be tempted to increase our volume and/or consistency. But it doesn’t work. And if we do it long enough and loud enough it may make them want to choose the undesirable behavior even more, if nothing else but to spite us.
It reminds me of the church in America.
There are new ideas in our culture we may disagree with. We might even consider them unlawful or unfair. And often it seems we believe that in order to get our point across we must only get louder. If we could just say what we believe loudly enough, consistently enough, for long enough, those whose beliefs or lifestyles we oppose will hear us and change their behavior. We’ve based our whole strategy on the idea that “loud is louder.” And so we take to social media, we defend, we attack, we play the martyr, we become alarmist. We sound the horn.
And it appears we’ve failed as miserably as the Toronto cab drivers in successfully communicating our point of view.
The church is the hands and feet of Jesus. We’re supposed to act in the world, to do what He did, to go, to help, to feed, to touch, to serve, to meet the needs of every person, not just the ones we agree with. Sometimes it seems we only use our hands to point a finger at those we believe are wrong and our feet to stomp when we don’t get our way.
The church is the Bride of Christ. We’re supposed to be radiant and beautiful, reflecting the goodness of the groom, secure in His love for us, ushering people into the wedding feast. Over time, we’ve become more like an insecure spouse, nagging the culture in a desperate attempt to get it to change its ways.
It’s not working.
Because loud isn’t louder.
Love is louder.
It’s the only way forward. Love in the form of compassion and understanding is needed more than anything else. And patience. Lots of patience.
It’s interesting that in the gospels, the louder Jesus’ opponents got, the less He spoke and the more He let his actions do the talking. As their accusations rose, His love grew even louder. More forgiving, more audacious, more obvious, more inclusive, more giving. About those who crucified Him, Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” There’s a love – a deep compassion and understanding – in this statement that defies reason and sensibility. You’ll also notice an otherwordly patience. He forgave them. He didn’t exclude them. He didn’t vilify them. He didn’t choose sides. Even though they spat on him, beat him, and took his life. His love grew even stronger. Because that’s what real love does.
Real love goes over and above. Real love goes to excess.
There’s a german word that means “over” and “above” or “to excess.”
Jesus was over and above with His love. He loved to excess and it changed the world. His love was louder than a culture bent on destroying Him and His movement. And His love continues to ring out in every city in every country on every continent in this world.
As followers of Jesus, we must resist the urge to lay on the horn of disagreement and instead choose to be uber in our love. What we’ve been doing isn’t working. We have nothing to lose by trying a different approach.
So be over and above in your love. Love to excess. Love every person, not just the ones you agree with. Allow compassion and understanding that defies reason and sensibility to be your guide. Show patience. Lots of patience.
Because loud isn’t louder.
Love is louder.