Jesus said that people must ‘take up their cross’ to follow him (Mark 8:34). He meant that Christians must be willing to suffer insults and shame because of him. They must be ready to suffer cruelty from people who opposed God’s work. And sometimes a Christian would have to die because of his relationship with God. Jesus suffered in that manner, and Christians cannot always avoid those troubles (Matthew 10:24-25).
The laws of Moses said that priests had to carry out certain tasks ‘outside the camp’ (Hebrews 13:11). And some other things had to happen ‘outside the camp’ too. For example, people with certain types of illness had to live ‘outside the camp’. During the life of Moses, Israel’s people were camping in the desert. But afterwards, God gave the country called Canaan to them. There, they built homes and they established cities. Strong walls surrounded the cities, with gates to enter inside. So, things that formerly happened ‘outside the camp’ now happened ‘outside the gate’ of the city.
In Hebrews 11:38, the author described how God’s people had to leave their homes in the cities. They had to live in deserts and on mountains because of the cruel actions of enemies. That happened to many of the first Christians (Acts 8:1-4). Their enemies wanted them to feel too ashamed to speak about Jesus. But those Christians knew that Jesus had also suffered ‘outside the gate’ of Jerusalem. They considered it an honour to suffer as he had suffered. And so, wherever they went, they spoke about him (Acts 11:19-21).
They were not afraid to lose their homes in the cities, because God had prepared a better city for them (Hebrews 11:16). They were not afraid of insults, cruelty and shame, because Jesus had suffered these things before them. They were not afraid of death, because they would always live with God (Hebrews 12:22-23).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.