CAMPBELLTON, New Brunswick, May 1, 2023 – I had a dream last night about a green sky. Everyone around me was ignoring it as if it weren’t there, but I knew it meant something bad was coming, so I ran to take shelter underground. I tried to convince others to follow me, but they either laughed at me or ignored me, just as they’d ignored the green sky.
I entered the shelter alone.
That’s when the dream ended, and I woke up in a sweat.
I am an alien among my own people. I hear them talking, but their concerns are not my concerns, any more than their needs are mine or their desires are mine. Being a believer in an unbelieving world can put you at odds with nearly everyone around you. It can take a toll on you, living as an outsider, but if Jesus could do it, so can we. With God and his Word as our comfort and refuge, no matter what happens to our body, our soul is safe in God’s hands.
The dream of the green sky is my everyday reality. Look, I tell people around me, look at what’s coming! But they carry on with whatever is obsessing them for the moment, blissfully or willfully ignorant of the danger on the horizon. To them, I am the fool, the one they whisper about and talk about behind my back. I’m the one with “problems”, the failure, the one who had so much potential and threw it all away on religion. A bad investment at best and an embarrassment at worst.
I imagine Jesus heard the same whispers during his ministry years. I imagine he saw the same averted gazes or worse the blank smiling faces hiding a twisted pity tinged with loathing. To be a follower of Jesus in an unbelieving world is to know what it means to be loathed, both openly and secretly. In most cases, I’m loathed without people even knowing why they loathe me. They just do. Oh, they look to find reasons, like “she dresses funny” or “she’s too old to have long hair”, things that wouldn’t even garner a second thought in their fellow unbelievers, but in me, loathsome me, it justifies their revulsion.
I understand the revulsion. I once felt it myself as an unbeliever. I loathed believers without any grounds for loathing them. I just loathed them. I know now it was a spiritual loathing, not an emotional one. The emotions conveyed the spiritual revulsion. It was the demons in me and around me that loathed the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the believer.
I am now on the receiving end of that undeserved revulsion, and as much as it should disturb me, it instead makes me strangely happy. I don’t hate those who loathe me. I know the reason for their ungrounded hatred and I love them. The more they loathe me, the more I love them. It’s a strange kind of happiness based on a strange kind of love that can only come from God, through his Spirit.
To love those who hate you and mock you and reject you and sideline you and overlook you and talk about you behind your back is liberating. It’s like a trained boxer coming up to you and saying “Hit me”, and you hit him hard, but he just keeps standing there inviting you to hit him again. So you hit him in the head, you hit him in the gut, you hit him in the balls, you hit him in the knees, but he just keeps standing there, waiting for you to hit him again. He takes all the hits and he keeps on standing there, smiling.
And never once does he curse you.
Holy love is as much a spiritual phenomenon as unholy loathing. These are not human feelings, holy love and unholy loathing. They come from the spiritual realm. We humans are just the delivery vehicles. But we can only deliver what we choose. None of it is ever forced on us.
We open ourselves to it, and it flows through.