A Refuge

A most interesting feature of the Old Testament justice system was the cities of refuge. From Joshua 20, we find that there were six of them scattered evenly across the country on both sides of the Jordan river. If someone committed manslaughter unintentionally, he could run to one of these cities to escape pursuers. The elders would give him protection and allow him inside, at least until a proper trial could take place.

The New Testament makes a connection with these refuge cities by pointing out that Christians have “fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18) Our sins have been forgiven in Christ and we find shelter from condemnation in Him.

In a way, the church is also to be a refuge for people in our hardnosed, wearisome, often cruel society. When disillusioned people visit us, they ought to feel a sense of security and relief just to be among us. Our message should give hope, our singing encouragement, and our prayers a sense of calm in the presence of God. But it’s the way we treat each other that reveals the marvelous difference between the church and the world. Notice these points made in Romans 12:

  • We who are many are one body in Christ (v5).
  • Let love be without hypocrisy (v9).
  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (v10).
  • Give preference to one another in honour (v10).
  • Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality (v13).
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (v15).
  • Be of the same mind toward one another…associate with the lowly (v16).
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (v18).

If we practice these principles, we will indeed be like a refuge in our community. Remember, Paul wrote these words to the church in Rome, a city of violence, greed, slavery, and human suffering. In the middle of all that, the church stood out as something full of grace, hope and love. Let’s do the same in our city.

– Tim Johnson