January 5, Thursday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.


Sanctuary Cities at the Crossroad of Compassion and Justice

Joshua 20:1-3 (ESV)

Then the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.”

05The Yali people, pygmy cannibals in Papua, Indonesia, and several tribes living near them have had an interesting custom.  Once a man fleeing from his enemies enters the place called Osuwa, he is immediately granted protection and safety—no one could touch him, much less hurt him as long as he stays there.  The cities of refuge in ancient Israel served a similar purpose: God told the elders of those cities to admit anyone who kill[ed] a person accidently and unintentionally “into the city and give him a place to live with them.  If the avenger . . . pursues him, they must not surrender the one accused” (Joshua 20:5).

What would, then, be the closest thing to Osuwa or cities of refuge in our country?  To the advocates of undocumented immigrants, it may be “sanctuary city”—a safe harbor to illegal aliens, since special municipal provisions allow people to “avoid cooperating with federal immigrant law enforcement authorities.”  So, what will you do if immigration agents are knocking on your door, upon finding out that you are harboring an illegal alien?

Henri Nouwen, in The Wounded Healer, tells a story of a young fugitive kept hidden by people of a small village.  When the soldiers threatened to kill them for not handing him over, they turned to their minister who, upon reading the verse, “It is better that one man dies than that the whole people be lost” (Jn. 18:14), advised the people to do just that.  That evening, the minister, still saddened by his decision, was visited by an angel, who said, “Don’t you know that you have handed over the Messiah?” When the minister asked, “How could I know,” the angel said, “If, instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known.”

What a powerful story, but does this make my question any easier to respond?  No, not really.  As compassionate believers, being mindful of God’s command to “not mistreat [alien] . . . love him as yourself” (Lev. 19:33-4), we may help an undocumented father or mother on the run.  However, as believers who see “governors” as “sent by [God] to punish those who do wrong” (1 Pet. 2:14), we may also turn over illegal aliens who have committed crimes.  After all, not everyone was welcomed to the city of refuge, for its protection didn’t extend to those who committed crimes premeditatively.

To those who see the entire world in black and white, this isn’t an adequate answer; however, over disputable matters, we study Scripture, pray earnestly, and then follow our heart wherein lives the Holy Spirit.  We may, therefore, find ourselves hiding or reporting illegal aliens.  In either case, instead of name calling (“xenophobic”) to shame one another, we respect each other’s view, even as we may voice our disagreements.  “Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light . . . the motives of men’s heart” (1 Cor. 4:5).

Prayer: Dear God, I praise and honor You this morning.  Please give me wisdom and courage over disputable matters so that my decision will not result in being sanctimonious, accusing and labeling those who disagree with me. Help me to love the weak and the helpless, and also uphold the laws of the land. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 4


Read Rom. 8:1 (NIV): Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Matt. 11:28-9: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Heb. 9:28, 10:28: So Christ was sacrificed once and to take away the sins of many people. . .. And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Questions to Consider

  1. “The cities of refuge,” a temporary rest for those who did wrong in the Old Testament, foreshadowed God’s permanent provision in Christ for the forgiveness of wrongdoers. Theologically, why is the rest granted in the New Testament superior to that of the Old Testament?
  2. How was the better rest made available in Christ realized theologically?
  3. What would you say to an undocumented worker running from the law who does not know Jesus?


  1. The rest available in Christ is far superior, because those who are in Christ are no longer condemned, and their sins are permanently forgiven by God because of the atoning death of His Son. Thus, in Christ, we can truly find rest for our weary souls.
  2. This superior rest was made available to us, because Christ’s sacrifice took away our sins once and all, thereby making any further sacrifice for sin completely unnecessary.
  3. An example: “As long as you don’t believe in what Christ has done for you, you’re actually running from God. You can stop running by placing your trust in Christ.  Whether to return to your country is something you ought to pray about, as you are being instructed in the word, and then follow your conscience.”


As you look back to this day, were you involved in any argument or intense discussion over a disputable issue?  How did you handle it?  What does the way you handled it reveal about yourself?

Meditate on Romans 15:1-2, 7 and pray for God’s wisdom and strength to do better tomorrow.

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, . . . 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

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