Saturday, July 16, 2011
Therefore Let Us Go To Him Outside the Camp
It is a great and wonderful truth that Jesus suffered for us. He did so under unspeakable circumstances. Our Savior in every way died in horrid pain outside the gate. As on the Day of Atonement when the bodies of the sacrificial animals were not eaten but instead were burned outside the camp, our atonement - Jesus - was murdered outside for us.
This is the great exchange that scripture speaks of so clearly. He allowed himself to be tortured and slaughtered in order to make us holy. This is simply stunning.
The author to the Hebrews doesn't stop there. After describing what Christ has done, he calls upon us to join Jesus outside the camp. If the camp signifies the comfort, safety, acceptance, and pleasures of the world, then when we venture outside to Christ, we are also opening ourselves up to "the reproach he endured." This reproach is suffering. We certainly won't all suffer alike, but we at least embrace the idea that followers of Christ generally face persecution with Christ.
In the O.T., those considered ceremonially unclean had to stay outside the camp; the world may think of us as metaphorically unclean, or at least really weird, because we do not embrace its ideals. Because we are outsiders, or "exiles" as Peter writes, we will probably face forms of social rejection at a minimum and possibly far worse.
I wonder how many of us desire to live fully for Christ but also want to remain inside the camp. Or maybe we desire to sort of stand with one foot inside and one foot outside. The author doesn't supply us with that option. The call is to embrace what Jesus endured, rejecting the fleeting pleasures that the world has to offer. Running to Christ is likely also running to suffering. The two go together.
I wonder if I, a Christian and an American, really understand this. For many people around the globe, the moment they embrace Christ is the moment they embrace suffering. For us in the USA at least, we face a not so subtle danger. We can be lulled to sleep by the lack of outright persecution and fall into the trap of trying to embrace both Christian living and capitalistic, democratic comfort. The two just don't go together.
We must remember the great hope we have in all this. While we will face persecution if we desire to live godly lives, we also have the promise of the city that is to come. We read of this in Hebrews 13:14, immediately following the above two verses. The ruler of that city is also the ruler of the universe. He is the one who embraced rejection outside the earthly city. May we all embrace him by embracing that same rejection outside the camp during our short stay on this earth.