Outside the city. That's where, in many countries, the slums are. In other more prosperous places, 'slums' are metaphorical: we know what and who is on the 'outside' and what is 'in.' And like all human beings, we want to be on the inside.
But where do we find Jesus? Always on the outside, whether he is talking with those considered to be outcast or outside the realms of acceptable society: lepers, women, Samaritans, tax collectors.
Even in his death, he was sent outside the city to a forlorn hill of pain and suffering:
"The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy place, 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." (Hebrews 13:11-12)
What do you consider outside your realm of comfort, of possibility, of discussion? What people do you avoid and what society do you crave? Is it the inner circles of gossip and rivalry that we all face in our workplaces? Or the circles of 'cool' people whom have welcomed you in, made you feel acceptable? Or perhaps it's more subtle than that: your quiet desire to be accepted has led you to turn your back, with something as simple as looking away instead of at, on those who are somehow unacceptable?
This is a hard calling that goes against our very natures - we dress, think, speak, act and don't act, purchase, consume and relate in ways that ensure our acceptance into one group or another - and all you non-conformists out there, you're not exempt. As the old saying goes, "Even freaks have a dress code."
Jesus didn't. He lived and worked outside, calling outsiders into his kingdom with love and acceptance. He railed against the self-promoting inside cliques of leaders and priests who had the ultimate VIP passes to their self-made religion. He spent his time looking past the gates and into the garbage dumps, the no-go zones, the unpopular, smelly places. He started out his life on earth in a barn, and ended it on a cross - the ultimate vengeance on those who were deemed unacceptable: the dangerous outsiders.
So where would we find him today? On the outside, of course:
Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." (Hebrews 13:12-14)
Take some time today to really look at the borders you've drawn around your life, and the places you have gained a coveted place in the inner circle. Would you be willing to lay aside that status for the sake of the gospel? Would you find Jesus there? Ask Him to show you how to be an outsider again, and by doing so, rub shoulders with outsiders that He is calling back into the very centre of His grace - the city that is to come has room for everyone. No reservations.
- Sarah Kift