Sunday, March 4, 2012

Outside the Camp

I have often wondered what the author meant in Hebrews 13:12-13. In those verses we read these words:

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.

I have never understood the significance of going to Jesus “outside the camp.” But in reading Numbers 5 this morning one way of understanding these words presented itself. In verses 1-3 we read:

The LORD said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.”

Who are the ones outside the camp? They are those who are ceremonially unclean. They are the outcasts, the marginalized, the ones unfit for God's presence. As I wrote in my Reflections on Leviticus, I realized that due to certain medical conditions I have I would quite often be among those outcasts. As I read those words this morning the verse in Hebrews came to mind and I saw a connection, because Jesus is also outside the camp. He is not among the healthy, pure, “godly” types, but outside, among the outcasts, the misfits, the marginalized and the “sinners.” We see this throughout the Gospels, where Jesus is often accused by the “righteous” of hanging out with the “unrighteous.”

If we are looking to join Jesus, to be with him and participate in his life, we have to go where he is. We have to stop striving to maintain our image of “godliness” and admit our brokenness, our impurity, and our sinfulness. Jesus people are the marginalized ones, not the ones in the positions of privilege, power and prestige.

Under the Levitical law I would find myself outside the camp. But when it comes to Christian society, where do I find myself? Am I willing to go to Jesus outside the camp and associate myself with those whom society—whom the Church—rejects and marginalizes?

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