Sanctuary

Sanctuary. We hear this word in the news a lot lately. I find it interesting because I grew up in a church that talks a lot about Bible prophecies and last day events and the cleansing of the sanctuary has been listed as a doctrine.  Some people’s theology is all about escaping this earth and proving their worldview is “right.” Meanwhile, they ignore taking care of the earth or how they treat the people in it. Such religion is not viable to me and goes against the teachings of Jesus who came to give all of us a more abundant life even now. Such abundance has less to do with our bank accounts and much more to do with how we love other people.

For some religious narcissists, the word sanctuary is more about proving they can count down the prophecies, than being a channel of love to serve other people. Prophecy can be interesting, but no list of facts or chain references will mean anything unless we actually become living sanctuaries for Jesus. So perhaps it’s time to refresh our understanding of the word sanctuary.

SANCTUARY:
noun

  1. a place of refuge or safety.
    people automatically sought a sanctuary in time of trouble

synonyms: refuge, haven, harbor, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, hideaway, hideout, safety, protection, shelter, immunity, asylum

A sanctuary is a place or maybe even a person who is safe. What does God need to change? A building in heaven or my sneaky, selfish heart down here on earth? When I think about what it means for God to cleanse me, it’s really about making me into a safe person so I can live with God and others for eternity without harming anyone. But for true Christ followers, God’s kingdom starts now. That means while we’re still living in this world, I am learning to love my neighbor and enemies as I love myself. Not more than myself, but with equality.

I believe God calls each of us to be a sanctuary–a safe person where others can speak of their pain and secrets and know we won’t repeat it, but allow each person to tell their own story. I want to be a safe person so others who don’t trust God yet, can at least know they can trust me because whether they realize God is trustworthy, as a friend of God I want to share the truth about his gracious and loving character.

To be a sanctuary is more than having a body set aside to avoid vices like smoking or drinking or overeating. Sure, I could be healthier, but despite my weight, God is willing to use me and you too, because God uses whoever is willing to allow his Spirit flow through them like a river of life to bless others. This does not require perfection, but other-centered love. I believe each of our ragamuffin lives are smothered with God’s grace.

I’m so glad to know He who began a good work in me will complete it and that God is more concerned with our hearts than outward appearances. When I remember this, I am filled with God’s grace and better able to understand the struggles of other people—even when those people struggle with things that I have never dreamed about, I will refuse to shut them out because Jesus never does.

Whenever I hear the word I think of that old praise chorus from the eighties:

Oh Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy,
Kind and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.

This is no longer just a praise chorus to me–it’s a legit prayer from my heart to God. In a post truth world, the words KIND and TRUE really shine out. These days the idea of being a sanctuary seems less like a song and more like a spiritual stop on an invisible Underground Railroad where the soiled, bedraggled and hurting are escorted to meet the true King.

When we embrace our calling to be a sanctuary, we become safe for people to share their secrets with us. We do not tell someone else’s story. We pass no judgment. We no longer divide people by nation or color or gender or use any form of documentation to split us from the other. This is because we are all ragamuffins and Jesus has prayed to the Father to make all of us into one and in the process, He’s walking all of us home together.