Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sanctuary

I'm interested in what the concept of sanctuary might mean in the church today. Historically, people have sought sanctuary in churches when they have had nowhere else to go, often when they were being pursued. Refugees, 'illegal' immigrants, runaway slaves and people accused of all manner of crimes have sought refuge in a church where they hoped they might at least get a fair hearing.

I believe that all Salvation Army corps could be places of sanctuary that provide hospitality to people who are in need of shelter from the harsh realities of the world for a while. In this kind of sanctuary you would find immediate acceptance, genuine care and concern, a listening ear and usually some practical help such as a meal, bathroom facilities or fresh clothing.

Of course, there's a catch: sometimes people seeking sanctuary were guilty of crimes and even stole from the places that offered them refuge (Les Miserables has a wonderful example of a grace-full response to this). The question before us is whether we are prepared to take that risk. I believe that those who follow Jesus are compelled to do so.

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