The heart of the Christian Gospel is the conviction that God fully reveals Himself in the man Jesus of Nazareth hung on a tree as curse outside the camp of Israel. This means that whenever anyone or any group of people finds themselves outcast, marginalized, or scapegoated, they are identified with the Person of Jesus Christ, and the self-revelation of God. It does not matter at all if the outcasts ‘deserve’ to be marginalized, or scapegoated. Who they are, what they believe, or what they have done or failed to do—none of that matters. When they become powerless victims, they become Jesus Christ.
As Christians, our challenge is to stand with cursed outsiders, wherever we find them. This does not mean we must compromise our beliefs, let alone endorse theirs. It simply means defending them against all attacks. It means working diligently for their health, shelter, nourishment, and employment. It means ensuring that they do not suffer alone. All of this can be done without sacrificing our theological or moral integrity.
Care for the marginalized is not about making the world a better place. It is about following the One who has revealed himself in the margins, even when this means becoming accursed ourselves. This is not an option for Christians; it is our vocation. We must therefore, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it, "go forth to him outside the camp, and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Heb. 13:13–14).
Fr. Richard Rene is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia, with his wife Jaime and three children. He works as a prison chaplain at a maximum security institution, and serves at Holy Apostle Mission Station. He is the author of three YA fantasy novels and a regular podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. Fr. Richard is also one of IRPJ's Guest Lecturers in our 18-credit hour, online, university-based Certificate in Religion, Peace and Justice.