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What does it mean to “go outside the camp” for Jesus?

Hebrews 13:12-14 (ESV) So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

I’ve been working on a new sermon from this passage. In the course of working on it, I’ve pondered this question: “What does it mean for me to go outside the camp for Jesus?” What does it mean for you? How often do we actually go outside the camp? Are we comfortably bunkered down in a Christian ghetto? Trust me, I feel the force of these questions. One small step I took was to volunteer at a place here in Ames. I’ve done three shifts already, and I’m sure that many of the workers wonder why I’m there, since I don’t have a court order to do community service or a scholarship requirement either. I’m praying that I can be salt and light while volunteering.

This question makes me think of Jonathan Edwards. I’m reading the standard (excellent) biography on Edwards by George Marsden: Jonathan Edwards: A Life. I highly recommend it!

edward13Edwards (1703-1758) was willing to go outside the camp for Jesus. If you don’t know his story, he was perhaps the greatest theologian that North America has produced. God used him to promote the first Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in the colonies. He was the pastor of one of the most important churches of the time. But then things went sour with his church. They eventually voted to dismiss him.

What would he do? He looked at various options, such as starting another church in the same town, or pastoring an established church, or moving to Scotland. After a period of over a year, God opened the door for him to be a missionary to the Mahican Indians in Stockbridge, MA. He labored for about seven years there, preaching the gospel and writing. Some have thought that this was his only option, but a careful examination of his testimony bears out the fact that he wanted to be a part of reaching the Native Americans for Christ, in spite of the dangers and difficulties he and his family would face.

Would I be willing to do that? Would you? Based on Hebrews 13, we should be. May the Lord give us wisdom and courage to “go outside the camp” for Jesus.

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