The Trials of Friendship
I had a dream almost two months ago that’s been on my mind since the night it arrived. In the dream, I moved my family to Oregon and I’ll admit, the dream has had me a bit confused.
Less than a year ago, I moved away from the Pacific Northwest, to the desert Southwest, primarily because my wife and I wanted to live in a warmer climate. I didn’t receive much revelation from God prior to the move, so when I had the dream about moving back to the northwest, I wondered if I’d made a mistake.
In thinking about the dream, I knew that if God wanted us to live in the northwest, He probably would have made it clear before we moved. His ways are a bit mysterious, but He’s been a perfect gentleman in leading us in these kinds of things. It seems out of character to tell us after we’ve moved that we’d made a mistake.
Although many of my dreams are literal, most of the moving dreams I have are symbolic. I’ve felt for a while that I’d entered a new season of life and if I’m in a new season then a moving dream might be appropriate. Dreams of moving tend to portray, symbolically, the things we can expect in a new season. I believe it’s the city we moved to in the dream that holds the key to the interpretation. And the city we moved to was Salem, Oregon
Now in thinking about why the city of Salem was chosen, I considered the things that the name Salem is associated with. The most obvious being the famed witch trials of 1692, in Salem Massachusetts, where dozens of people were tried and executed for the crime of witchcraft. Many of those killed were members in good standing of a church congregation. It seems as though God is warning me to watch out for some things that might resemble the witch trials of Salem in this new season.
It’s hard to receive this as good news. I certainly don’t have warm, fuzzy feelings about it. And yet, God always has a purpose for the things He reveals, and His purpose is always for our benefit. The things He warns us about may not be comfortable, but the advanced notice may bring comfort, reassurance, and instruction on how to navigate the storm when it arrives.
So the question is: have I encountered anything yet resembling a witch trial?
Strangely enough–shortly after I had this dream, I began receiving private messages from Facebook friends, who warned me about my association with a close friend, who had become the suspect in a string of bizarre spiritual events.
This friend is very interested in the supernatural. He writes often on supernatural topics to spur discussions about things we don’t fully understand yet. Some of his views are pretty radical and they’ve generated a lot of controversies. As is always the case with radicals—some of the people who once supported him have accused him of going off the deep end. The story took a strange turn when this group of former friends began experiencing demonic attacks and, as a group, they “discerned” that my friend was responsible for them.
This group of former friends, without any direct evidence of wrongdoing, relying solely on their own personal discernment, tried and convicted my friend of the crime of witchcraft. They have as a group, blocked him from their lives.
That’s not the end of the story.
It isn’t enough to discern a source of evil and remove it from your sphere of influence. You must find out how far the evil influence has spread and remove yourself from anyone who has been infected by it. Isolation from any potential source of evil is the name of the game.
So the group approached me through private messages and laid out their accusations against my friend. Knowing that he respected me–they hoped I would either straighten him out or sever all ties with him. After all–what man of God would knowingly associate with a convicted witch? (And if he was a witch, and I was his friend, maybe I was a witch, too.)
When I didn’t respond as they expected, most of these people unfriended me.
The accusations against my friend are growing almost daily. He’s become the official cause of demonic attacks and bizarre spiritual occurrences that happen to anyone who knows him. Forget about Murphy’s law–you can now blame my friend for all of your bad luck.
The witch trials of 1692 are an example of how mass hysteria works. They’re a poignant reminder of the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusation, and disregard for due process. My friend has suffered the same type of holy violence the early pilgrims endured at the hands of their brothers.
When I approached my friend about the accusations, I was shocked to learn that not one person had bothered to confront him personally. In complete disregard for the instruction of Jesus to confront a brother in person (alone) when you have a problem (Matt 18:15-18), they chose to slander and gossip about him behind his back.
Of course, they claimed that “God told them” to talk to someone else about the problem instead of confronting him personally. I suppose you can do whatever you want as long as you make it clear that “God told you,” and apparently, God now endorses gossip, slander, and false accusation.
I’ve taken a break from Facebook for a number of reasons—this is just one of them. The way these people have behaved reminds me of how adolescents resolve conflicts in a sandbox. I expected more maturity and compassion from people who are old enough to know better.
My friend has received a few warning dreams from God recently. A mutual friend also had a dream about him suggesting that he is in some type of danger. The three of us have solicited the counsel of older, trusted leaders to help us navigate these times of uncertainty. That’s what true friendship is about. It’s helping others when they’re in danger —not departing from them for the sake of self-preservation. Isolationism isn’t the answer. True friends see the good in others and encourage their development. They don’t overlook the bad, but they don’t make it the focus of every discussion. They nurture others and suffer along with them, bearing each other’s burdens.
I may have ten thousand friends when the good things in my life are on display. But only my true friends will be at my side when my flaws and failures are in the spotlight. And it’s the prayers and encouragement of true friends during hard times that I need more than the hollow praise of fair-weather friends.
If I’m the kind of friend that can be pressured to leave your side when the adversary is having a good time at your expense, then I’m not really a friend.