Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
When I say in crowd, I would allude to the New Testament word in the Greek ekklesia. That word very simply means called out ones. It has to do with the fact that we are sanctified and set apart to God. The natural assumption is to feel that we are really on the inside of God’s favour and grace.
Although that is true, it can be dangerous because that basic assumption puts us in the precarious position of looking from the inside out. Those who are not with us are outside of us. This kind of teaching can lead to all sorts of difficulties where we highly define what we feel being an insider means. It can show up in how we view our church. We may think we have the truth. It can affect how we grow because we see everything from the inside looking out. It can create, within the church, a culture of privilege. Within that “right culture” we have the right to define what we feel is Christian. This can extend itself to matters of doctrine that can end up being prideful and idolatrous.
Paul speaks into this and says, “I am writing to you as a group of people who are keenly interested in knowing who is in versus who might be out”. The apostle encourages them to be wise in the way they act towards those who are perceived to be outside. He also says that time is an important factor in the way that we treat others. When we are unable to perceive grace at work, then we lose time.
In Hebrews chapter 13 verses 11-13 the high priest is spoken of as carrying the blood of animals into the most holy place as an offering for sin, but the bodies of those animals were burned outside of the camp. He says Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make people holy through His blood. This profound truth led us to go out to Him outside the camp carrying the disgrace He bore. In my mind this is the peripheral connection.
We have thought about God as being in the centre. Here we see that the central event of His crucifixion is partly where He suffered. Where he suffered He was an outsider. In doing so He sanctified the insiders. The encouragement here is so let’s go outside. I want to ask you a question, Where do we go when we look for Jesus? Could it be that He remains outside inviting those that are there to experience His loving grace. I am not sure if you have ever been an outsider, but if you ever have though whatever event you have experienced in your life there is a shame in it.
The insiders always identify those who are different. When we go out of our way to love and to show grace towards those who are different, it is always risky business. Here is the thing. We on the inside experience and know the assurance of God’s love. We clearly see and understand that He bore our shame. Guilt, shame, and fear have been dealt with through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Yet Paul encourages us to be involved in what we may term risky business. Are we prepared to love those who are outside because we were outside a short while ago? When we forget the power of the cross and the transformation it has caused in our lives, we lose the reality of God’s passion to go into the highways and byways to draw people in.
Your responsibility and mine is to go and love the outsiders that they might experience God’s benefit for them. When we dare to go out, we find ourselves strengthened and motivated by the freedom to greet Jesus in others in the name of Jesus. Remember His word I was hungry and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty and you didn’t get me a drink. Their response was when did we ever see you like that. This kind of deception can be found in the hearts of insiders. Jesus words are still pertinent to us. They are these: “If you have done it to the least of my brethren, you have done it to me”.
God sees us without the divide and encourages us to bring down those divisive things that hold us back so that we can love as God loves humanity. In closing, if we do this; we will even love each other more as insiders.