“Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For we do no have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Hebrews 13:12-14
I have been reading through Leviticus in my quiet time. This book is made up of list after list of laws and regulations that the Israelite people were to follow. As you read through this book, you will find references made again and again to those outside the camp. In chapter 13:46 we find that the leper or one with an infectious skin disease was considered unclean. Such a person was to live alone, outside of the camp. In chapter 16:27, we see that after an animal sacrifice was made, the bull and goat whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp and their hides and flesh were to be burned up. The camp was a safe place. This is where the Israelites lived, this is where the Tabernacle was set up, this is where the High Priest met with God and made atonement for sins.
To apply this to us, as Christians. Our camp is our safe place. Our camp is the church. I will be the first to admit how much easier it is to worship the Lord, live for Him and share about Jesus in such a comfortable place. How often do we as Christians stick with our Christian friends. How many of us actually have lost friends? The truth is we often tend to isolate ourselves, wanting to stay in the camp. Yet, as I read the verse above, I am convinced this is not what pleases God. He tells us here that we are to go outside the camp.
So, what does outside the camp mean? If you think back to Old Testament times, you will find that danger awaited the Israelites outside the camp, risk of uncleanness awaited them, the enemies of the Israelites were outside the camp. Therefore leaving the camp was risky indeed. Today, the world is outside the camp. A world full of sinful, needy people. John Piper describes it this way. “Strangeness. Uncertainties. Drug dealers are outside the camp. Pimps and prostitutes are outside the camp. Unpredictable gangs are outside the camp. Your unbelieving colleague or neighbor or classmate is outside the camp. Some parts of the wilderness outside the camp are muddy and steamy, and some parts of the wilderness outside the camp are tall office buildings with oak-paneled offices and floor-to-ceiling windows. And outside the camp are all the unreached people of the world.”
Going to any of the above involves risk, risk of reputation, risk of rejection, risk of failure. “It may mean choosing places to live, places to work, places to minister, places to travel, people to help, ministries to do that are not safe from abuse and reproach(Piper)”.
This goes against a lot of our mainstream Christianity today. Many are fine with being Christian but many don’t want to deny self in such a way and would much rather stay inside the camp where it is safe and comfortable. Yet, I believe this goes against what Jesus has called us to. He tells us to go outside the camp. If we are going to be obedient, this means we will go to the poor and the outcast. Going outside the camp means getting outside your comfort zone and befriending those who are different from you, taking interest in the people you pass every day. Remember Jesus ate and associated with the unclean, the tax collectors and prostitutes. Why? “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17). He expects the same from us. For others going outside the camp means leaving houses and lands and going to the mission field. Did you know that the most unreached people groups today live among the most hostile nations? Taking the Gospel to them involves much danger and risk, yet we are told to go.
I challenge you and myself. Let’s get rid of the comfortable and go outside the camp. This will mean something different for each of us. Yet, I believe as you seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what this means for you, He will let you know. For some it may mean going to the poor in your community, for others it may mean crossing the tracks into a dangerous area of town to share Jesus and for others it may mean taking the Gospel across oceans and lands. Yet, the Lord is pleased either way. He just calls us to go outside the camp. We must never forget that this is not our home. We are just passing through. Jesus did not call us to just accept Him as Savior. He died to save us and be our Lord. As Lord He calls us to go, not to be comfortable, and to take the Gospel to those outside the camp.