Outside the Camp
I work part-time at a small country store and bakery called “Bushels”. It is a really nice place to work. Safe, conservative, and friendly. The Lord placed the job right before me, like an open door, and told me to walk through. (But that is another story altogether.) And while this store holds several blessings and little benefits about it, it also holds a very distinct religious atmosphere. It is a Mennonite store. The wide variety of co-workers and religious beliefs that are mixed into one small place is almost amusing to me. Several of the young girls I work with are either Mennonite, holding strict outward standards but with little depth to mention, or girls which claim to be “Christians”, but honestly, don't look or act much like a Christian at all. If I hadn't asked what they “believe”, I would have never guessed. And then, there's me. Somewhere in the middle of it all.
Several weeks ago, I had a very interesting occurrence. A conversation with one of the girls I work with. She has been a fairly new addition to the store help, but also, a nice addition. And while we were chatting away one day about life and such, she asked me, “So, are you going on the camping trip this weekend?” I just starred at her, with a rather confused look. “What camping trip?” And her hesitant ,“Oh”, for a response, wasn't exactly reassuring. All the young girls from work had planned a camping trip together that weekend. I obviously wasn't invited. In fact, the week before, my boss had made sure to let me know he would be needing me to work that following Monday, because the girls were asking for the day off. He failed to mention why. I must admit, I did feel a little bit like “the unpopular school girl who wasn't invited to the birthday party”. But honestly, I didn't really care that much. Sure, I might have considered going for a little while or something, but it wasn't anything worth crying over. Later, when my work shift was over, I began to think about it all over again. I mean, it was a little odd, that I was the only one not included. Even one of the girls, which I just mentioned before, who was relatively new and married (all the other girls are single) was invited to go! Why not me? Was I really that different? And I would also like to mention right here, that the girls I work with, are very nice to me. At least, to my face they are. I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression. All of us generally like working together. So, I do not believe this was so much a matter or personal dislike, but rather, of spiritual indifference. So I asked myself, what would “worldly Christians” and “Mennonites” have in common that I do not? You'd think I'd fit somewhere right between the two, but I don't. In many ways, I am actually much more conservative than the Mennonites, even though I don't wear a head covering or claim to be one. No, instead, I claim to be a Christian, though I am totally different from the girls that also claim to be “Christians” there. And so, I don't think they really know quite what to do with me, or where I fit. Maybe I make them feel uncomfortable? and would therefore ruin their fun little vacation? Or possibly that the things they would enjoy doing would contradict with where I stand? Whatever the reason, I realized for one of the first times in my life, what it really is to be different from others around you, even so called “Christians” or “friends”. To be willing to stand “outside the camp”. And to stand alone. Someone had once told me, that to follow Christ is lonely. I hadn't completely understood exactly what he meant by that, until then.
A few days later, the Lord met with me about this very subject in my devotions. I was reading Hebrews 13 at the time, and this is what I read:
“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13:12-14)
I looked down again at the words before me, “Without the camp”. I set my Bible down on my lap and just started to laugh out loud. Literally, “without the camp”. He was laughing with me. Christ suffered without the gate. He suffered alone. He was willing to be rejected, despised, to be misunderstood. And because of this, He knew exactly how I felt. He'd been there Himself.
In a very small way, He had given me the opportunity to bear His reproach. And again, I mention that it was in a “small” way, because it was. Others bear so much more. But I was thankful for it. Thankful to be outside the camp.
“Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:” (I Peter 4:4)
I hope you know, that I am by no means encouraging employee rivalry. To be excluded socially isn't “spiritual”. Being liked by other employees, doesn't automatically mean you're “worldly” either. But, I do want to say, that the people who are comfortable being around or with you, does say something about you. What is your conversation like with them? Do you just agree with their standards? Or neglect to state your own? Is there anything different, anything deeper, anything real that they may see? Or do you simply fit right in?
“Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.” (Luke 6:22)
Christ went far enough to tell us how that we are blessed when we are separated from their company. That “Blessed are ye” when we are reproached for His name's sake. When we are hated, for the cause of Christ. As Christians, we should actually expect this.
“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” (I John 3:13)
As the World hated the witness of Christ Jesus, so the world will hate us. And just as they persecuted Christ, so are we persecuted for following Him.
“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)
“ But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” (I Peter 3:14-17)
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings: that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” (I Peter 4:12-14)
He tells us, “Happy are ye” and “Blessed are ye”. And Why are we so blessed? Why are we so happy? Firstly, because it is His will for us.
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” (I Peter 4:1-2)
Truly, suffering is not fun. Being rejected isn't exactly joyous either. Especially for those of us who “like to fit in”. It can be hard to stand alone. But He does give the ability to. He has already gone before us, making a way. Hebrews 2:18 and 4:14-16 says how we have a Father who feels our infirmities. Once being tempted as we are, yet without sin. Because He suffered alone, so can I. Because He gave up all,”despising the shame”, so can I. Because He chose to bear my reproach, by His grace, I can bear His. He gives the grace and He promises to keep us.
“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (I Peter 4:19)
Because He is faithful to me, I can be faithful to Him. We are also “happy” and “blessed” in this, because it brings Him glory.
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (I Peter 4:16)
Christ is worthy. And if we, Christian, are not willing to stand, who is? “Without the camp”. Are you willing? Even in the little things, the small areas of our lives? In the workplace or our own social outlets? Even in our homes? In relationships? Must Jesus bear the cross alone? Or will we also take up our cross,”despising the shame”, for the joy that is before us?
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me.
The consecrated cross I'll bear till death shall set me free,
And then go home my crown to wear, for there's a crown for me.
Upon the crystal pavement, down at Jesus' pierced feet,
Joyful I'll cast my golden crown and His dear name repeat.
O precious cross! O glorious crown! O resurrection day!
Ye angels, from the stars come down and bear my soul away.”
(Written by George N. Allen and Thomas Shepherd and others)
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)