City of Refuge


By Kit Swartz - Posted at Gentle Reformation:

Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum is a first-class presentation of the honorable service rendered by the people of the city of Oswego, New York. The enclosure was sad, though understandable, but the warm and generous reception by our forebears deserves unqualified praise. How wonderful it would be if we would live up to this example and be a city of refuge for those in similar circumstances today! In a time when we are reimagining our city, it would be good to include this ideal in our vision. Both the wisdom and the compassion of the original Safe Haven should inform our aspirations.

The biblical cities of refuge also inform our thinking. Priests in Israel were part of the judicial system. The Levites, who assisted them, were given six cities of refuge, three to the east of the Jordan River and three to the west for easy access. When someone was suspected of a crime and was pursued by a member of the victim’s family, they could flee to one of these cities for protection. This protection was conditional, however. The priests and Levites would examine the refugee’s case. If the refugee was judged innocent, he could stay and continue to enjoy protection. If he was judged guilty, he would be disciplined accordingly. We also should be careful to act justly in any refuge we offer, seeing to it that the innocent are protected and the guilty are prosecuted. This is critical for the protection of our city, including other refugees. It is not extreme, but reasonable, measured, wise and just.

As with the Bible as a whole, this picture of refuge points us to Jesus who said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We all need to take refuge in Jesus from the cruel oppressions of temptation, sin and death which He has overcome...

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