Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. Hebrews 13, verse 13.
Jesus earned “street cred” by dying outside the city walls. That wasn’t the intention of the Jews who murdered Him. They wanted to discredit Him, to consign Him to a place with the worst of society. The Sanhedrin that sentenced Jesus to death wanted to erase the memory of Him so that He would soon be forgotten. To do that, they reasoned that having Him executed as a common criminal would cause people to abandon following Him. By branding Jesus as a criminal worthy of death, they would so disgrace His name that people would be repelled by even the mention of it. Within a few years nobody would remember this evangelist from Nazareth.
With anyone else, it might have worked. After all, there is only a small handful of names we actually know out of the billions of people who lived before, say, one thousand years ago (maybe even one hundred years ago). The people we know of (like Jesus) earned fame or honor. Who even knows the names of condemned prisoners from Phoenicia, Babylon, Athens or Rome? Do we know the names of the men crucified with Spartacus? Without using Google, who are the people on death row now in Idaho? Can you name anyone shot for cowardice during the Mexican War? We don’t know the names of these men because they’re lost to history.
We don’t know their names because we don’t want to. They died in disgrace. They died in ignominy and dishonor. You, me, and our friends don’t want to be associated with their dishonor and disgrace. It’s like adulterers in church: nobody wants to be associated with them because we feel like, if we are, we’ll be tainted by their sins. It’s a stupid, highly irrational feeling even if it is a constructive psychological defense mechanism.
It’s also ungodly. What would Jesus do? Not that. Jesus ran to the cross. He wrapped Himself in the dishonor and ignominy. Jesus knew that His sacrifice would bring glory, honor, and love to the Father. THAT is our better example.
Luke quoted Christ in saying that each of us who wants to really follow Him must deny himself and take up his cross daily. We must willingly, even gleefully, run outside the camp and pick up the weapon of our own death. We must embrace the disgrace. And the writer of Hebrews reminds us that human disgrace for faith in Jesus is worth more than all the treasures in the world. Joy in being persecuted for believing in Jesus is the street cred of faith.
A few years ago I read the Left Behind books. I’m not a millenialist, so I didn’t accept the rapture/7 years tribulation idea; to me, getting mixed up in the how & when details of the end of time misses the miracle of being called home to heaven. But one scene from one of the books (I don’t remember which one) stuck with me. In it, one of the main characters is talking with a condemned man who is on his way to the guillotine. The man is about to die for not taking the mark of the Antichrist and instead of being hesitant about it, he is joyful. Imagine that: the man is about to be murdered for what he believed and he is enthusiastic about it. He’s ebullient, joyously embracing the disgrace of dying for the one you love. And I don’t even remember the character’s name.
But that’s just a book. The truth of it is that that this happens here and now. It’s been happening for real to Coptic Christians for years. It happens wherever ISIS rules. It still happens in Communist China, and Cuba, and Islamonazi Iran. A watered-down version of the persecution even happens in American universities and American corporations. I am challenged regularly online for words like these, and I have lost friends over my faith. The best response when that happens? Joyfully thank God and press forward. The world thinks it’s a disgrace to believe like this. Embrace the disgrace and advance against an enemy that has already lost even when it costs you everything.
For further reading: Luke 9:23, Hebrews 11:26.
Lord, let me embrace the ‘disgrace’ of serving You, of loving You, of faith in You. Teach me and uphold me to better serve you in the world.