Reflecting on the role of church as a sanctuary

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I am wondering to what lengths any of us might go to preserve our lives, preserve the lives of our loved ones and find a place of safety and sanctuary? Would we cross a border to a “promised land?” Even if we didn’t have all the paperwork?

I know I would.

I also wonder if this isn’t the reason Jesus taught things such as “Love your neighbor as yourself” and then went on to describe our neighbor as the least likely person; the outsider, the foreigner, the discarded?

I wonder if this is why Jesus gave us the teaching, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  In a desperate situation, I would hope a stranger would extend to me the love of Christ through food, shelter, safety and sanctuary.

When someone calls our church asking for assistance with food, shelter, etc., I don’t ask their immigration status. I don’t ask for their genealogy. If they need help and we have the means to do it, then we offer the assistance we can.

Churches in the US provided sanctuary for slaves in the underground railroad. Churches in the US provided sanctuary for Guatemalan refugees during a time of war, along with refugees from other Central American countries. And right now, churches are offering sanctuary for people who may otherwise be deported, separating them from their families and in troublesome cases, sending people back to violent situation that could lead to their deaths.

Offering sanctuary to people in need is not a difficult stance for me to take. I think it is exactly what Christ taught us to do. Love our neighbors – it’s who we are called to be.

Rev. Mary Wilson is pastor of Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, which is affiliated with The United Church of Christ, American Baptist Churches - USA and The Alliance of Baptists.

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