Today I saw a rainbow.
We’ve had heavy rain the last couple of days. I had stopped at a traffic light as I was driving down from Farmington into Bristol. The radio (and friends) had reported that another cell was moving slowly through Bristol. Farmington was still bright with the shining sun but right across the street everything was out of focus in a haze of rain.
Every now and then, during these days of rain, there was a calm where you would look outside and see that wall of clouds blackening the sky except where you are standing.
It really is a weird feeling if you happen to be aware of the conditions.
You transform into this tiny, insignificant speck in danger of any of the forces all around you. The wind, if it gets strong enough. The water, if there is enough of it. The lightning, if it crashes down. A tiny speck against that power doesn’t stand a chance.
But today, during one of these heavy blasts of rain and momentary pauses, the sun broke through the wall of clouds.
It wasn’t gone. It wasn’t even hiding. All the stuff happening here obscured my ability to see it, but it was always there. And as it shone through the misty haze, it’s diffused light refracted to display the colors across the dark sky.
It made me think of my kids and your kids and your nephews and even us. The world isn’t as dark as it could be, not yet. It’s not even as openly violent as it was. We’re physical softies compared to our great grandparents or even their great-grandparents. We’ve disconnected from our evil by applying labels, or creating procedures, or by conflating ideas.
Even so, this current darkness obscures the light by being all around us. It makes us think that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Our moral eyes get accustomed to it. So much so that fellow Chrisitans, people who should know better, defend the darkness as day. In a world that applauds wrong, happily encourages others to do likewise, and then get offended by folk pointing out the wrong it’s not surprising that this is the culture so many of us adopt.
Specks like me become targets for your collective lightning, strong gusts of opinion, and your deluge of pseudo-tolerance. I don’t stand a chance.
In all honesty, none of us stand a chance. We all stand before our maker who is stronger than any wind, fiercer than any flood, and more frightening than any blast of lightning. We stand before him because he has the right to judge. He made us.
I don’t mind telling you this because you’ve probably forgotten, but God is not only love, he’s also holy.
We don’t know what that means today. It’s a church word. It doesn’t only mean “other” though it includes that. It doesn’t only mean “set apart” though it includes that.
The Bible recalls an event where the world had gotten dark. People were exceedingly violent and proud about it. God was patient for years, then he had enough. His holiness was displayed and the world really went dark, the wind really did blast, the lightning flashed, and the waters rose.
Holiness displayed looked like the judgment that people knew they deserved. They did wrong and came up with excuses with how they weren’t in the wrong. And God responded by stopping them.
Thing is, the fact that they had gotten that bad wasn’t that God was powerless. He is holy and part of his wrath is pulling his closeness back and letting people do what they want to do. We stupidly think it’s freedom, but it’s willingly embracing slavery.
That’s what those people had done. They rejected God and God rejected them. For years. And then finally the time came to clean the slate.
After he was done he made a promise that he wouldn’t clean the slate in that same way again. It’s really easy to be afraid of the rain and thunder if it was used to display holiness so God took an atmospheric event and imbued it with meaning.
A rainbow does not mean what people have made it mean. That rainbow is a promise from a person. It promises restrained judgment but it also promises that this person, God, is watching. That should encourage us but it should also keep us on our toes. Don’t lose hope as the world gets darker, but don’t embrace the darkness in some confused effort of trying to display love.
Love doesn’t applaud wrong for the sake of tolerating differences. Love actively and emotionally embraces the good for the sake of others, even when that involves exposing the wrong. Love is concerned about the outpoured wrath of God—not in the future, but right now.
Because God really is watching. And God really is holy. And God really is judging right now.
It can be a depressing mission when the darkness is so thick but the darkness just indicates that we have to be about the work even more faithfully and with more urgency.
As I drove down the road seeing that rainbow, I didn’t see many people outside. I imagine that most people didn’t even realize the rain had stopped. It would soon start up again anyway. It was dark out. They were used to it and didn’t notice the difference.
And yet there were a handful of people out there, camera in hand, smiling as they took a picture of the rainbow. They were sensitive to the light.
“What a sight!” said one person.
“Even better in the middle of all this rain.”