12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. 15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:12-16
The author of Hebrews was driving home (pun intended) the point that this is not our home. As the heroes of the faith before them were “looking for a [heavenly] country of their own” (11:14) so too the Jewish believers were being challenged to do the same. Through the ultimate example of Jesus who, having left His heavenly home, died for our sins outside the city of Jerusalem in the rubbish heaps of Golgotha, we now have a home in Heaven. What did this provision mean practically? Well, the author gets painfully practical when talking about the three sacrifices of the Christian life that please God. The “sacrifice of praise”, again in the context of living life “outside the gate”, meant a confession of faith in Christ despite the consequences. Leaving the protection of Judaism as a legal religion in the Roman Empire meant full exposure to persecution. The “sacrifice of praise” was so much more then singing “How Great Is Our God” at Sunday morning service. It meant choosing to suffer for a public faith in Christ rather then being private about it. It meant outing yourself in a hostile environment rather then staying in what was culturally acceptable. In this historical context the other two sacrifices of “doing good” and “sharing” take on a much less prudential meaning. The Christians are being challenged to continue to do good even when evil is being done to them. Sharing becomes a true sacrifice when everything you have is being taken away because of your faith. It turns out that the way of the true Christian life is the way of sacrifice rather then settling down, camping outside the gate rather then seeking comfort inside.
Today Pastor Clay helped me take our final boxes to the dump in his truck. This was a big moment because it meant we were finally getting settled in here in Kona. You would think I’d be happy about this, but for some reason I was slightly sad. We had shipped all of our belongings in boxes at the beginning of June from Seattle and had been living out of suitcases and sleeping on air mattresses for over a month as part of our move to the Big Island. I used to like camping, but after all of this I don’t think I’m going to go camping any time soon. This move, however, has been a needful process for my soul. I have surrendered everything I had found my identity over the past ten years over the course of the last two months. One of those significant changes is that Cyndi & I are now renters instead of home owners. We did a short sale on our home in Seattle so that we could be here in Kona on the timeline necessary. This letting go of home ownership didn’t honestly seem that big of a thing until I found myself walking through the empty halls and rooms of our home the night before we flew out and was inundated with emotions at the amazing memories made there. I found myself feeling untethered in the midst of all of this transition and for all the unknowns, it has actually been quite liberating. Ive grown dependent once again on the voice and Word of God and less concerned about the familiar. Now we find ourselves in a total God situation with the home we are renting here in Kona being so much more then we could have hoped or prayed for. Yet, I also recognize, a familiar need to be comfortable and settled and this makes me sad. Part of this is good in terms of our commitment to the long haul here in Kona. Part of this is also dangerous in that I can lose the camping mentality very quickly. Living “outside the gate”, living out of suitcases, living as renters keeps me in a place of dependency upon Him for identity and security. Does that mean we shouldn’t be home owners or have comforts? Of course not! I just know my human nature is craving routines and I don’t want to lose this sense of sacrificial living that comes so much easier when I’m living out of a box. The solution of course is to prioritize the sacrifices that please Christ: the sacrifice of praise, doing good, and sharing!
I hear Your Spirit saying so clearly through the Scripture today to “keep camping”. This earth is not my home. When I forget the perspective of the sojourner and foreigner I start getting clingy with my time, talents, and treasures… as if they belong to me. If I’m not careful my soul gets quickly tethered to the things of this world rather then to the priorities of my Heavenly home! Give me a fresh boldness to share of my belief in You “outside the gates”. Help me to continue to do good to those who don’t treat me well. Help me to share out of a spirit of generosity rather then scarcity. I want to make pleasing You my primary focus so I’m going to keep camping in Kona with You!