Posts Tagged ‘outer court’

All executions were performed outside the city walls. Anything that was unclean or tainted was destroyed or thrown away there. Jesus broke up a lot of traditions, but the greatest one was starting something holy in an unholy place.

Hebrews 13:12-13
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.

Two thousand years ago, the followers of Christ were considered unclean, much like lepers. They were law breakers and rule breakers. They were teaching others that the temple traditions were no longer necessary. They were breaking down societal structures. They all deserved to be cast away and thrown out from the protection of the city gates. This was the mindset of Paul of Tarsus and the crusade of his companions to obliterate the Christ-ians.

Now, some two thousand years, the tables have turned, and the very same believers in that former renegade, Jesus of Nazareth, are the ones who inhabit the “city” and have created their own order and culture of “righteousness.” It seems that anyone who might question or disagree with the current regime is cast outside the camp.

They are a new set of Pharisees who are putting people under microscopes before they are allowed inside.

But I believe Jesus is still outside the city. Jesus is still rubbing shoulders with the prostitutes and homeless, the poor and the outcasts, the disenfranchised and the orphans, the persecuted and the different, the prisoners and the ex-prisoners. The way of Jesus will always be the way of paradox. When we become to comfortable, we may have strayed onto the wide road [Matthew 7:13-14].

I am equally challenged here. I may go outside the “camp” for a visit, but every night I still run home to my comfortable bed and my air conditioning, my habits and my rituals.

I am yet afraid outside my “personal city” walls. I am afraid that I will be lost, that I will be hurt, that I will be shut out.

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So let’s talk about families and relationships. What is the expectation? While we are still children , we certainly expect our parents to be safe. We expect our parents to know what is best. We expect them to love us and take care of us. If this expectation is broken, for whatever reason, we are already at a disadvantage as we move into adulthood. If we have lost our ability to trust, we have lost one of the key elements to love.

Love requires an exposure of the heart and the ability to tolerate a bit of heart stomping. But there are limits to what a heart can bear.

Children are extremely resilient. They can forgive “absent,” “bad,” “neglectful,” and even “brutal” parents for a long time, but eventually there is a toll that is extracted from the heart. So often, these broken experiences with a parent are stumbling blocks on the path toward hearlthy adult relationships not to mention a relationship with Christ.

But perhaps the parents are not cruel, but simply broken themselves. The cycle often goes from one generation to another. They may have never experienced unconditional love, trust, encouragement, praise, boundaries, instruction, or anything else that is part of the growing up process. They cannot “miraculously” pass these elements down to their own children. They must learn them themselves first.

There are ways to repair the damage to the heart and to learn new behaviors and attitudes. In the secular world, it is usually through counseling or, if the person is lucky, through an extremely well-grounded, patient, and healthy mate who can model love (but this opportunity is rare since most broken adults are rarely attracted to healthy adults… but gravitate to the familiar).

In the Church, this healing should come through our interactions with Christ and the family of Christ. First of all, we have Christ’s sacrifice [symbolized by the cross] whose blood insures we have access to God Himself … we have access to the holy of holies where there is healing for all. And so, we should be able to appropriate this power, to place the cross between ourselves and others, and to connect heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. The past should no longer have such a great influence over us.

Instead, we forget what is available to us. We shield the heart from further hurts. We create our own version of the “holy of holies” and only allow others into the “outer court.”

I’m thinking it’s time to take down the veil between my personal “holy of holies” and the outer court. It’s time to stop requiring all kinds of sacrificial proofs from people I encounter… prove to me that you won’t hurt me, take these litmus tests to prove your worthiness or compatibility quotient to be my friend, be sure you are “like” me before you enter or you’ll be cast aside.

Earlier I said that the heart must be able to tolerate a little stomping. I know this to be true because Jesus himself alluded to it… the forgiving of others seventy times seven for starters.

When I came to the Lord, it was through a young man who initially hid his Christianity from others because he was afraid that people wouldn’t like him. Instead, they didn’t like him anyway because they believed he was “faking” and hiding something. They even thought he was “gay” and encouraged to “come out.” In the end, he did come out… he came out as a Christian. Did it turn things around? Did he suddenly have great numbers of friends? No, not really. But he felt better about himself. And, in the end, because he came out for Jesus, his testimony brought me to the Lord. That was almost 30 years ago.

Friendship, marriages, families, churches … all relationships must be based on truth. There are no guarantees in relationships. When the heart is injured by another, it is only Christ within who can heal, protect and renew. But we should not ask Him to insulate us from pain. The butterfuly that does not struggle to emerge from the cocoon is not strong enough to survive. Life has pain. Relationships have pain. Love has pain. We grow stronger through experience if we choose it.

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