If you have ever heard something described as being “beyond the pale” it was most certainly meant to express outrage. The phrase is commonly used to label something as intolerable, to be totally outside the bounds of decency. Knowing this, it may seem like an odd choice for a name. I can imagine that some readers might find the views expressed on this blog to be intolerable but stirring up outrage is hardly my aim. My interest is in the origins of this phrase and its relevance to contemporary Christians.
A ‘pale’ is a stake or a pointed piece of wood that would be used in the building of a fence (and dealing with Dracula and his kind). In earlier centuries these wooden fences where used across Europe to secure regional borders. To live within the protection of the fence was to be home—venturing beyond the pale meant you were far from home, in alien territory.
Christians live their lives beyond the pale. As aliens and sojourners, we are in this world but it is not our home. Home for the believer is the eternal rest that we will one day enjoy when Christ’s kingdom is finally consummated. Until then, we live here as residents without permanent status. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (13:14).
Being a resident alien isn’t always easy. The ways of this world are often opposed to our faith and living in the resulting tension is hard. Maintaining holiness in a culture that celebrates impurity is hard. Advocating for the value life when society seems intent on cheapening it is hard. Championing the truth when the growing consensus denies its existence is hard. It’s just hard to be faithful to Christ while living in a faithless society.
This blog is meant to offer encouragement and advice to we that live beyond the pale. I don’t presume to have the answers but leaning on the Scriptures and a long legacy of Christian thinkers I know where they can be found. With these guides I’m sure we can find our way.