Outside the Camp

There are days when I don't like being white. Granted, as I say this, I know that if I heard anyone else say it, somewhere in the back of my mind I'd be thinking, yeah, hard life, ya schmuck, but I've been feeling it recently. A week or so ago I was at Juvie, and this lady's son had been arrested as part of some school crackdown as a result of a YouTube video, of all things, and she was mad as a hatter, and she kept telling me about how they always make school violence into a gang thing when it involves black kids, and I really didn't know what to say. Now frankly I think there's some basis for that in Memphis, but still, the stereotyping made me feel terrible for her. Then tonight I was talking with one of the security guards at Juvie, and he was telling me and this other lady about how one of the ladies coming to visit her son was highly suspicious of the fact that young white girls were coming to the jail to talk to their kids, since we look like kids ourselves. The guard stood up for us, but it was still one of those things--like, why does it always have to be about race? Welcome to Memphis.

I went to the Java Cabana for the first time in probably two years because I needed to get a second witness, and on my way in I ran into this guy Larry who gave me a daffodil and told me he needed $4 to get to the Memphis Union Mission, which puts homeless people up. All I had was $3, but I gave it to him in the name of Jesus and sat down with him and told him about the best thing that ever happened to me--that I had given my life to Christ--and then prayed with him that God would give him a job. The whole time these scene kids kept walking past us to go to the open mic night, and they'd look at me like it was utterly bizarre that I should be talking to him. I ended up walking in--thought I'd get some coffee or something for the road, but they don't take cards, only cash and checks--and they were crammed in, all wearing black and jeans, with tricolored hair and that crazy Flock of Seagulls thing going on, and it seemed so utterly bizarre to me that people who probably see themselves as socially conscious could come in and sit around and pay three dollars for coffee but totally ignore the homeless man at the window.

I'm not mad at them. They probably don't know any different. But what makes me mad is that we do so little with so much. I hear all of this stuff about our economic situation and how we're doomed to go down the pipes, and I think we really deserve it at last, because we've had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness, and we have not strengthened the hand of the poor and needy, and we've been haughty and committed abomination before God, and it's really only a matter of time before He takes us away. I'm not talking about America here; I'm talking about God's people. We have so much; what are we doing with it?

This guy David Platt spoke at Bellevue last August, and what he basically did was to go through the Old Testament and trace the sacrifices and stuff, and then he preached out of Hebrews 13:10-14. He said some things that have really gotten me thinking, especially in the last month or so since I've been reading Leviticus and Numbers. He made this point--you know what, I'm just going to go ahead and type the verses out, and then I'll relate his point.

Hebrews 13:10-14
We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

Platt had investigated this phrase "outside the camp" and found that it had to do with lots of things. For instance, the ashes of the sacrifices were carried outside the camp. The flesh, skin, and offal of sin offerings were burned outside the camp; bulls for the priests' sins and for the unintentional sins of the people were burned outside the camp. Lepers were sent outside the camp. People to be stoned were taken outside the camp before the Israelites killed them. Anyone who was unclean was to stay outside the camp until evening, when he could wash. Platt's point was that we have been called with Jesus to go outside the camp. Jesus was crucified outside the camp, and our two options are to retreat or to risk everything with Him. And our response has been to retreat. We've been self-centered--"in the nurseries of our churches drinking spiritual milk." His question: "Will we die in our religion or will we die in our devotion?"

Platt offered this challenge to Christians, because what happened in Leviticus and Numbers could so easily happen to us. God sent them to do something, and they disobeyed, and they died in the wilderness. They kept throwing all this stuff up to Moses, like, "All of us are holy--each one of us. Why should you get all the facetime?" But they weren't. They were manifestly not holy. These people had already consigned themselves to forty years of dying in the wilderness, and then they started talking about being the Lord's people and being holy. They weren't. They were already disqualified from service; they had obeyed too late, and in the absence of obedience they opted to seek their own rights. Have we done that, as a people? Have we sunk down into an idea of our own holiness and chosenness and in fact forsaken mere obedience to God? This is my fear. How long will we have to wander in the wilderness until our children see the light?

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