Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
“You have bad blood in you,” a father used to hammer at his daughter, blaming her failures on her mother’s DNA. Subsequently she grew up feeling second-class, not good enough, and inadequate. Actually she was a lovely young woman who was wounded and struggled with feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Tell a child that he is “no good” long enough and he’ll believe you and act out his failures. When you are like that, you are the walking wounded, the ones on the outside, afraid of getting too close to people lest you be rejected again.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of those outside the camp who are associated with the abuse that Christ received, abuse which was unwarranted, unjust, and undeserved. Here’s the text. “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:12-14).
Outside the camp—that’s an interesting expression. Those outside the camp–or the city, as the situation may have been–were the cast-offs, the misfits, the lepers, the rejects of society, the off-scouring of the flesh. And outside the camp are the unreached nations. John Piper puts it, “Outside the camp are the ‘other sheep’ that are not of this fold. Outside the camp are the places and the people who will be costly to reach and will require no small sacrifice.”
Jesus, of course, was not crucified in a Catholic Church, as Mark Twain conjectured, seeing the maze of crucifixes in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher when he visited Jerusalem. Golgotha, or the place of the crucifixion, was outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The Jews wanted no blood shed within the city, so executions took place outside the gates.
Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). He made a choice—identify with God’s people outside the camp rather than to live in luxury in the palace of the Egyptian king. Some are thrust outside the camp, rejected by those within; but others voluntarily chose to go outside the camp and thus identify with the suffering of Jesus Christ.
Today vast numbers of believers in Jesus Christ find themselves outside the camp, rejected by family, by friends, by society. They bear the disgrace that he bore. Yet the writer of Scripture speaks of our going outside the camp with Him as an act of the will, something you chose to do rather than are forced to do.
The writer of Hebrews adds a motivation for going outside the gates. He says, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” And what does that mean?
There’s far more than the three-score-and-ten or seventy years of life as we know it, but those who suffer outside the camp, who enter the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, are made holy through the blood of Christ, and theirs is the eternal home described by John in the book of Revelation.
Perspective sees the Celestial City, not simply the loss of comforts within the gates of society.
Go outside the camp and touch someone—the orphan, the child suffering with HIV, the prostitute rejected by society, the misfit who is overweight, the individual whose personality sets him at odds with others. It’s a decision you make as you follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Taking the seldom traveled path—the one that goes outside the gates—will put you in the company of the redeemed. Never forget it.
Resource reading: Hebrews 11.