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Dirty Love

I never really considered my dreams to have much significance until recently. Although I’ve read about how God has given people divine revelations through their dreams, I honestly didn’t believe them.

Then a few months ago I found myself standing on a rocky cliff in Africa looking upon a man covered with lesions due to AIDS. I could feel a quick breeze hit my face, as I saw the sun pound upon the man’s dark skin. His head was buried in his hands as he wept. As I drew closer, I could see a mixture between snot and spit coming down from his hands. He finally noticed me and looked upon me.

“Hey man, what’s wrong?” I asked naively. I could tell this broken man couldn’t understand me. He just looked at me with extreme sorrow in his eyes; sorrow I’d never seen in a man’s eyes before. He tried to stop crying. I was afraid he was going to start hyperventilating. I wanted to tell this man so badly that everything was going to be OK, but I couldn’t.

I just gave him a hug. I could feel his body bleeding on my fingertips. The man’s frail arms were shaking as he held onto me like one would hold onto a life preserver. I immediately woke up crying.

The most disturbing aspect of the episode was that I wasn’t crying because I saw this man’s suffering through AIDS and the poverty around him. Even though I was aware that I couldn’t get AIDS from merely touching the man, I was still repulsed by the idea of touching him. The basic instinct was that if I touched the man, others would think I was just as dirty as society has made him out to be and I didn’t want to be part of that.

I really liked Christianity until it involved actually living out Jesus’ teachings. I loved hearing about how Jesus fed the multitudes, healed the lepers and made the blind see. I figured most of the work for Christians was done, because our focus was to save souls from eternal damnation—not getting our hands dirty because of Him.

I started flipping through the pages of my Bible to find something so much more than the Jesus I learned to bottle up like a genie. However, seven eternal words continuously stared me in the face: Love your neighbors as you love yourself.

Although I knew this new commandment well, it didn’t really sink in until I started reading about how Jesus healed the lepers. The lepers had this stigma around them that the man in my dream had. Society didn’t want them because they were dirty–even if they couldn’t help their condition.

The style of love Jesus shows is so different than what many of us believe. When we hear about the love of Christ, it feels that many of us think tolerance of our Christian neighbors.

Tolerance isn’t a bad thing by any means, but I am convinced the love of Christ runs deeper than that. It’s a love that requires us to accept a person for who they are.

Before we can accept a person like Jesus would, I am convinced we have to relearn empathy. Through empathy we learn to humble ourselves enough to feel what the other person is feeling. We live in a time where we dehumanize others through words such as, “sinner” or “lost soul,” which kills the connection we could have with some really amazing people. I am convinced that when we start building relationships with them, just to be friends, even if they’re of a different religious affiliation, then we will see a different side of life and be able to empathize with them.

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Through this acceptance, we understand these people we love have faults and accept that. We understand they may even have a different political or religious affiliation, but that shouldn’t stop us from the love we find in Christ. If anything, this should propel it so they can experience the love we find through Jesus. After all, our neighbors aren’t all exactly Christian ones.

This love turns societies upside down. It doesn’t appeal to us white-collar Christians who put money in the offering plate on Sundays in hopes this helps others.

After a few prayers and a long sermon, we try to forget the injustices of the world by staying on our cell phones as we pass through life mindlessly. Or we help them, thinking someone from church may catch a glimpse of this good act.

Jesus’ dirty love turns the tables and tells us to do the right thing because it’s right. It coaxes us to understand others and to take time out of our days to really empathize and accept our neighbors.

It’s interesting to see how many of us Christians are willing to do everything but physically help a homeless man in need—much less a man ridden with AIDS. Not long after I had the dream I saw two Christians outside of a local restaurant talking with this homeless man. He was hungry and needed something to drink. It was obvious they had no intention of helping him out physically, but they were ready to save his soul. After handing him a tract, they walked inside to get their overpriced food.

I saw the same fear in this man’s skittish eyes as I did in my dream. He was even crying in a similar fashion as the man in my dream. It was unnerving. At that moment, I learned what it really felt like to step out of my own comfort zone to really show someone the love Jesus taught. Sometimes that love can only be found through a hug or a burger.

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