There are many unspoken cultural protocols governing communication and conduct. For instance, when attending a sporting event the expectation is that you loudly verbalize your solidarity with your team – but if you were to enthusiastically cheer on the soaring crescendo of an aria at the opera, you would likely be unceremoniously escorted out of the building. This protocol likely finds its origin in your mother’s admonition to use your inside voice when you were a kid – reminding you that you were no longer on the play ground . . . so you might want to dial it down a skosh, we can hear you loud and clear.
Undoubtedly, this was one of our earliest lessons in self-awareness – learning to deferentially place ourselves in context with others. But like any lesson, this one can easily devolve – allowing us to become so preoccupied with what others might think of us, until we end up disappearing into the capricious expectations of others . . . losing all sense of our own identity. This happens when our inside voice has shamed us into believing we are unacceptable the way we are and need to become a more homogenized version of ourselves.
And you can always spot the person on social media who never quite learned to speak with their inside voice, as they appear to have no social filters, whatsoever. They have become so impressed with their own opinions they feel obliged to set us all straight, and marginalize any objectors as either stupid or evil. But what they’re apparently unaware of – we hear them loud and clear, but not because of the point they think they’re making . . . rather, we hear the contempt and arrogance of their conspicuously self-involved identity.
When asked — what is the greatest commandment? Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40) For those listening to his answer, they would have recognized him as hyperlinking them to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), something they had been taught as children. Because within every Jewish home, self-awareness and cultural identity, was a lesson learned, by first learning to love God.
So when Jesus adds “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” to the Shema, he is merely pointing out the obvious implications of what it means to love God – we best demonstrate our love for God when we love one another, as we would love ourselves. This is the inside voice Jesus is wanting to cultivate within you – before speaking or acting, to ask yourself “how might I offer the love of God to this person today, in the same way God’s love has been so graciously given to me?” In this way, we become the face of God to all we meet . . . and this is always an appropriate protocol to follow.
. . . and let that voice sing like the sparrow