“The cafeteria made him feel like an observer rather than a participant in the high school experience.” (Alexandra Robbins: The Geeks shall inherit the Earth)
Of course, from my vast experience of American school films, I can picture the scenario with little difficulty: it is that some people are part of the in-crowd, and others are not. It’s a tribal thing. We exclude people so easily. We turn them into observers.
Brian D. McLaren takes this up a peg in his book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. So here’s the same point, in a Christian context.
“As a committed Christian, I have always struggled with locked doors—doors by which we on the inside lock out “the others”—Jews, Muslims, Mormons, liberals, doubters, agnostics, gay folks, whomever. The more we insiders succeed in shutting others out, the more I tend to feel locked in, caged, trapped.”
Insiders and outsiders.
Every follower of Jesus has to make a decision in response to McLaren’s point: What are you going to do about these locked doors? How are you going to deal with insiders and outsiders? Are you going to move towards comfort or need?
In Hebrews 13, the writer gives an explicit response: “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.”
Here’s the answer. Jesus has gone “outside.” We are to go there too, “bearing his reproach.” The, move with Jesus is toward need, not comfort.
Our journey “outside” is based on the death of Jesus, how it happened and what it accomplished. “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood [that’s what it accomplished], suffered outside the gate [that’s how it happened].” Because Jesus suffered outside the gate, move out from the inside “camp” of security and familiarity, and be willing to bear reproach with him outside. And because he died there to sanctify you, don’t operate in your own strength but in the holiness that Christ purchased for you in his death.
Otherwise it will not be an act of faith but an act of heroism; and you will get the glory, not Christ, and what’s the point of that?
Sure, we misconstrue the summons. We make mistakes. But that mustn’t stop us trying.
Let’s get more specific. What’s involved in this life that moves toward need, not comfort – this life outside the camp on the road of the Cross, moving with Jesus toward suffering for the joy that is set before us in the city that is to come? Verse 15 gives one answer and verse 16 gives another.
Verse 15 says it is a life of praise to God – real, heartfelt, verbal praise – the kind that comes out of your mouth as the fruit and overflow of your heart. Verse 15: “Through Him [Jesus] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to [literally: confess] His name.”
Verse 16 says it is a life of love to people – real, practical, sharing of your life for the good of others: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
In other words, when we go with Jesus to the place of his sacrifice outside the camp, we see more clearly than ever that his sacrifice for us – the sacrifice of himself, once for all for sinners (Hebrews 9:26, 28) – brings to an end all sacrifices except for two kinds: the sacrifice of praise to God (verse 15) and the sacrifice of love to people (verse 16).
So here we are outside the camp on the road of the Cross, with Jesus, bearing reproach moving toward need, not comfort… So where is it heading? Practically, this afternoon? For you? This week? This year?
What is it that God is calling you towards?
For me, joy, praise and compassion constitutes a good beginning.