We are focusing our attention on “out” this week. When we say “out,” what do we mean? Actually we mean a lot of things; more than we can talk about in one day, but here’s a good start.
By “out,” we mean out in the marketplace, the secular world, the culture at large. Out beyond labels. Out where there is nothing to point to that is Christian except you. Out to where “Christian” and “evangelical” are understood mostly in political terms, and we are not even going to try to save either one of those terms, because as followers of Jesus, we don’t need either one of them to explain who we are or what we do.
“Out” also indicates direction. Out, not in. Our direction is out; our attention is out; our eyes look out of our heads. We are focused on others not on ourselves. “Looking in” is way overrated. It gets you nowhere. You can’t even see where you’re going when you are looking in. Think about direction. Where do your eyes look anyway? When you’re focused on yourself, you can’t be used of God, because God uses us to see and touch others. The Lord would have us wrapped up in others, not all wrapped up in ourselves.
And finally, “out” means outside the camp, because outside the camp are the outlaws, the sinners, the unacceptable like us. We are the “out group.” And God says that’s where Jesus wants us to gather with Him — outside the camp.
To fully grasp the meaning of this, you have to understand something of the Old Testament. When the Israelites brought their animal sacrifices to the temple they were slaughtered there, and the blood stayed in the temple to be purified through its offering, but the bodies were taken outside the camp and burned, because the bodies represented the sinful humanity that had to be destroyed. Knowing this, you can begin to understand the significance of what the writer of Hebrews said when he wrote: “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 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. [Italics mine] For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:11-14).
Let us go, then, out where we belong, to that place, where, among sinners like us, we meet Jesus, outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore. Let us go to that place, where disgrace becomes grace turned outward.
Some say he was an outlaw, that he roamed across the land
With a band of unschooled ruffians and a few old fishermen
No one knew just where he came from or exactly what he’d done
But they said it must be something bad that kept him on the run
– From the song “The Outlaw” by Larry Norman