I was talking to a friend today who is experiencing some family turmoil. In short – one aunt who married into the family has engaged, over many years, in a pattern of returning poison for love. What to do with such a person – how to show love?
Most of us have someone (or maybe that’s plural!) in our extended family who is a source of grief and trouble; someone who taxes our patience. Someone whom you’d just as soon see move to the other side of the world. The kind of relative that you leave behind after a family gathering muttering under your breath, marveling that you didn’t inflict grievous bodily harm…you know the type.
Sometimes, love means doing nothing. That is, you show the basic civility that you owe any human being made in the image of God, and you restrain yourself from doing all the things you’d LIKE to do. Subduing our impulse for vengeance can, itself, be a very high act of love. Even if it doesn’t feel like it!
“First, do no harm,” physicians are taught in the Hippocratic Oath. Many times, love is doing acts of positive good. Other times, it’s restraining your desire to do damage, even to those richly deserving it!
The apostle Paul, in the opening chapter of the New Testament book of Romans, details the corruption of the human race in the most plain and graphic terms. By the end of the chapter, you can almost feel the lightning bolt of God’s wrath tingling the back of your neck. Then, this remarkable phrase in the next chapter: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Some mistake silence and patience in the provocations of sin as weakness, or indifference. But, in fact, it’s the love of holding back for a season, withholding due justice so that the offender might wake up and turn from folly.
When you’re provoked unjustly, show love. Even if it’s just the love of doing nothing…