Scripture tells us that one of the ways God can speak to us is through dreams, where we are given a message through a dream, the meaning of which can be revealed immediately or at some point in the future.  I have experienced this a number of times; most of the time, they have been for me specifically, but a little while back, I was given a dream that I think we can all learn from.

In this dream, I was in prison.  It was one of those stereotypical Shawshank-esque prisons with the cells surrounding a big open courtyard.  As I walked out of my cell and into the courtyard, I saw that there were a lot of prisoners standing around, separated from a sort of island by a bit of a “moat” with railings all around it.  There was another prisoner on the island all by herself, and she was standing on a chair getting ready to hang herself.

As I stood there trying to figure out what was happening, the other prisoners all started yelling for her to do it.  I tried to yell for her not to, trying to encourage her that things would get better.  But she couldn’t hear me.  My friend John entered the scene, and motioned for me to follow him.  I did, and he led me around to the side of the room, where there was a roped-off area that we weren’t supposed to enter.  He crossed over into that area and told me to follow him, and I did.  Once we were there, we found ourselves really close to where this other prisoner was.  From that point, I was able to talk to her and encourage her, and she stepped down off of the chair.  When that happened all the other prisoners started cheering.

For a long time, I didn’t fully understand what this meant.  I mean, sure there is the obvious stuff about encouraging someone and all that, but recently I realized how much deeper the meaning of the dream was than that.

The Bible tells us that we’re all sinners – we all do stuff in our own interest, with selfish motives, etc.  Because of Adam and Eve’s “original sin,” we were all born into this way of life – it’s all we know, all we see.  In real life, a lot of the time we can’t see the chains that we wear as a result of sin.  It is our prison, and we’re all inmates.

Just as with a real prison, we can get released from our sentence – through the Blood of Jesus Christ – through His death, burial, and resurrection.  When that happens, we become a “follower” of Jesus Christ – a disciple.  By definition, a disciple is someone who adheres to the doctrines and examples set by someone else; in our case, of Jesus.  Much to the anger and disapproval of the cultural elites of his day, He genuinely cared for people that society said were worth nothing – poor folks and leopars and tax collectors and “sinners.”  He stood apart from the culture He lived in, and touched countless lives as a result.

When we look at our culture today, there are a lot of similarities.  There are many reactions dictated by our culture – how we should react to the poor, to the elderly, to those who look different than us, speak different than us, or act different than us.  From the day we are born, we are trained in the “proper” ways of acting toward others.

When we look at the lives of those who have truly made positive differences in the world – people like William Tyndale, Richard Wurmbrand, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and many others – those who have made the most positive differences for the world around us are the ones who refused to merely blend in with the world around them.  The only way to truly change the world for the better is to step out of the comfort and anonymity afforded by blending in with our surroundings.

We can’t reach out to other people while blending in with the world around us.  When we try to do that, we end up just like I did in the first part of my dream – our words and actions are drowned out by the world around us.  Rather, we have to stand apart from the world around us – to go where and do what our culture says isn’t allowed.  We can’t make a difference by being the same.

You’re probably wondering why I named this posting “Calcutta.”  While it is the name of the city where Mother Teresa spent most of her life, reaching out to and loving the poor, the orphans, and those overlooked by society, we don’t have to go to Calcutta to make a difference.  There are people we encounter every day who need someone to reach out to them in love and compassion – to treat them differently than the rest of the world.  The only way we can do that, however, is by going where and doing what our culture says isn’t allowed.  By caring for and loving others, just as Jesus has done for us.