Read Luke 10:25-37
I know this may seem like an odd story to begin with, but trust me it as it relates to individualism vs living in community and the ramifications of our own decisions.
When the Israelites were fleeing Egypt and were camped out in the wilderness God gave them this instruction: “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.” (Deuteronomy 23:12-14) Imagine with me being an Israelite in this situation. “What do you mean I can’t go in the camp.” Remember too that this isn’t some little camp by Guelph Lake, this is a camp that was estimated to be 2.5 million people. Think of it right now. You would have to pick up a shovel and walk a long way outside of a very large community! Try to understand what must have been going through the mind of these Israelites. Why does God insist that we do this? Nevertheless they trusted in his authority and followed his instructions and for forty years they “went” outside the camp.
Now for over three thousand years people would read this story and not really understand why God would declare such a thing. It has been only in about the last one hundred years or so that we know about microbiology, bacteria and disease. If they had made a habit of relieving themselves in the camp, bacteria would grow, and disease would spread killing many in the camp without some form of sanitation system. They trusted God’s word and came under its authority even though they didn’t fully understand why God would give this command.
We have an innate temptation towards individualism, fueled by our culture, which leads us to believe that “I” am the final authority, “I” decide what is right and what is wrong, and “I” only really trust myself. If this is true, then there are six billion people on this planet who all are the final authority. But in such a small and strange way Israel avoided this devastating, inevitable outcome of rugged autonomy. Fully alive followers have as their final authority a commitment to God’s Word rather than their own. This can be tough at times.
Sometimes it means doing and believing things that we just can’t quite figure out. But some of those questions might fall under the category of “go outside the camp” sort of deal – obvious to us now, deadly if not followed, and beyond an ancient Israelite’s comprehension. Maybe the answer is not obvious to you now, but it might be later. There may even be explanations for disasters, calamities, or tragedies that we do not know; however we have to live without knowing them and trust God.
Trusting God doesn’t mean having a blind faith or never having questions. It means that trusting the authority of God when you don’t understand is always wise and just might save your life.