I’m not a civil engineer, but sometimes the logistics of how cities are laid out fascinate me. How is it that you can have a million people living in an area, and yet the functions of daily life not get in the way? To be more specific, I’m talking about raw sewage.
Nobody wants to live in or around raw sewage for obvious reasons. For most of us who live in the first world, raw sewage isn’t something that we normally think about or deal with on a daily basis. It’s out of sight and out of mind. Actually, a lot of time, resources, and thought have gone into developing ways to keep sewage out of sight and out of mind in daily life. I’m very thankful for that.
For most of history however, and in many parts of the world today, how to dispose of raw sewage has been a significant problem. Please hear me out. I do not intend this to be an article that tries to solve the problem of raw sewage; rather, I would like to talk about an observation that I have made regarding how sewage was dealt with in the past, and how this relates to the indwelling love of Jesus Christ.
Outside The Camp
I have always been impressed with how the ancient Israelites were instructed to deal with their sewage. The Levitical law gave them specific instructions regarding how to dispose of their sewage outside their camp. While this might sound like common sense to us, it was quite revolutionary for their time as many contemporary societies of the same period in history (and later) suffered from disease and other unsanitary affects of living among raw sewage.
Disposing of waste outside the camp for the ancient Israelites had both practical health benefits, as well as were pictures of purity and holiness from a spiritual standpoint as well. In addition to its many health hazards, sewage simply smells bad. It carries the odor of reproach and filth. Outside the camp or city became known as a place of uncleanness in the religious world. In Jesus’ day, the religious folks were known for their spiritual hygiene and their external efforts to achieve purity and holiness. Anything deemed ‘unclean’ was banished from the community.
It has always fascinated me that, when the truest and purest of love came into the world (Jesus Christ), this love was seen as impure to the religious mind from the very beginning.
He who was truly above reproach carried the reproach of the religious world from the start to the end of His ministry.
He was criticized for the manner of His fellowship with people and was called a drunk and glutton.
Some of His closest personal relationships and teachings, as well as His public displays of affection, went flatly against the grain and rules of His own patriarchal society.
Eventually, the truest and purest of love was disposed of the same way raw sewage was. Outside the camp bearing the reproach of being spiritually filthy. That’s where He is.
Brothers and sisters, I do not write these things to discourage you, but to encourage you. Much time and discouraging effort is spent trying to live above reproach inside the camp. I want to encourage you to openly accept the reproach (outside the camp) that comes with the giving and receiving of His extravagant divine love. The greater the love you live by, the greater the reproach. You will even notice this reproach within yourself. To live in the reproach of the world (including the religious world) is to live above reproach in His sight.
There is a fragrant garden outside the camp, although it smells like a sewer to many. Be encouraged. That’s where He is, and that’s where we are too.
“So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come”. (Hebrews 13:13-14, NASB)
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God”. (2 Cor. 2:14-17, NASB)