Jesus our city of Refuge - He will come and save you
March 24, 2006 Kabul, Afghanistan - An Afghan man, Mr Abdul Rahman is facing a possible death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. This is in accordance to the Sharia, a strict interpretation of Islamic religious law allowed by the US despite oustering the Taliban Regime in 2001 . The Taliban' zealousness for the Islam religion has caused it to support Al-Queda in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America and the resulting move to oust them. Despite President Bush claim that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that most Muslims are law abiding citizens, the issue here is not about terrorism but of increasing religious fundamentalism be-it the papal decrees from Rome, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran or Archbishop of Nigeria. The religious fundamentalists have a common theme of aggression against Gay people. Whilst Abdul Rahman will unlikely to face death penalty due to American pressure, there are few such places of refuge for gays.
In America, in an Amnesty Report on 23 March 2006 entitled "Stonewalled – Still demanding respect", documents widespread homophobia - including the use of torture - by American police officers against gays, lesbians and the transgender . In one instance, in December 2003, a young African-American gay activist was waiting at a bus stop when Chicago police officers arrested him allegedly for loitering with intent to solicit. Despite providing identification and corroborating information from the organization he represents, he was detained for two days. The safe cities of refuge for Gays are limited to San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, and London. Elsewhere, there are much persecution, suffering, and pain from minor discrimination to death sentences as exemplified by countries such as Iran, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, and Uganda.
In Singapore, the "feeling good" party organized by Fridae (a gay & lesbian portal) scheduled on 26 March 2006 was cancelled abruptly two days prior. The party was to be held at the Ministry of Music (MOS) venue. It was alleged that the party was cancelled on encouragement by the Police despite subsequent denials by them. The Singapore law prohibits Gay sex and this incident further reinforces such institutionalized discrimination against gays and lesbians. Therefore all Gays in Singapore who ever had sex with men have broken the law. There are no places in Singapore where gays are immune from this law. There are no physical places of refuge unless we flee and go to Europe.
In the bible, a city of refuge is a safe place to flee for a person who had accidentally killed another. The city provided asylum to the fugitive by sheltering and protecting him until a trial could be held to determine his guilt or innocence. If, in the judgment of the city elders, the death had occurred accidentally and without intent, the man was allowed to stay there without fear of harm or revenge by the dead man's relatives (Josh. 20:2-6). There are six cities of refuge and these are taken from the Levitical cities - Bezer, Ramoth, Golan, Kedesh, Shechem, Kirjath-arba or Hebron . The city of refuge provided a permanent place of asylum for the manslayer the slayer, once being admitted to the city, could not leave until the death of the high priest (Num. 35:25; Josh. 20:6). If he chose to the leave the city before that time, he could be killed by the avenger of blood (Num. 35:26-28) - a relative of the dead person. The death of a person who did not deserve to die was called "innocent blood" (Deut. 19:10).
Under law, the death of an innocent blood even though the crime might be accidental and without intent requires avenge. It was not a crime to kill the man salyer if you were a relative of the dead person hence have a justified cause under law. There was no grace even in God's ordained commandments. For example, you were cutting wood and your axe broke and flew to your best friend and killed him. An accident, but under law deserving death, There was no mercy or grace. The cities of refuge ordained for God is a foreshadow of Jesus, of God's grace and mercy to sent His only son that if we seek Him and run to Him, to Jesus our city of refuge, we will find forgiveness. The manslayer in the city of refuge can only be released from his "crime" if the high priest died. This foreshadows the death of Jesus for us whose sacrifice frees us completely from the death punishment for sin. When the manslayer enters the city of refuge, he will go through a screening process where he will be judged whether he is innocent and the killing accidental. This foreshadows the judgment seat of Christ. But because Jesus Christ was totally innocent, and intentionally killed unlike the High Priest who died naturally, His death covers much more and extends even to those who are really guilty and killed deliberately. In summary, the city of refuge, is the picture of Jesus Christ, our Judge, our sacrificial redeemer, and High Priest.
The nation of Israel was careful to account for the innocent blood because there must be justice as part of God's universal principals. The shedding of blood is demanded for the spilling of innocent blood. If not avenged, after a period of mercy, the hand of God, the protection and covering of God's grace and mercy can be lifted from Israel resulting in calamity.
In our modern context, we are the fugitive deserving of death due to sin in our lives. We are the guilty one, yet we go free because Jesus loves us and died for us whose resurrection seals the acceptance of His sacrifice by God. Satan is the accuser of the brethren, accusing us of our guilt before God. As we are rightly sinners, Satan has full rights over our lives and can kill us or bring destruction to our lives. We have no protection unless we run to God, to Jesus, our city of refuge. There Satan cannot touch us because the blood of Christ covers us. His righteousness becomes ours. We are spotless, totally cleaned despite us still sinning. Jesus death brought us redemption for what we committed yesterday, today, and till eternity.
The mainstream churches have called homosexuality a sin, and Gays sinners. Gays are born as such. Just like the fugitives who killed accidentally, Gays did not intentionally sin. ( Nevertheless both straight and gay have sinned for all have sinned under law). Unlike the close relative of the dead person, the church has no justified reason under law to come against the gay person to be the accuser of their sin and call for their destruction. The Christian Right come against gays and become champions at oppressing this minority by instituting laws to limit their rights and to persecute them.This is a totally unprovoked aggression . By doing so, the hands of the Christian church will also be covered with blood of the innocent. They take on the role of the fugitive. As their intentions are evil and deliberate, they cannot claim innocence and run to the city of refuge and seek coverage of God's grace. If they had lived prior to the dispensation of Grace before Jesus died at the cross, they would have had no grounds for God's grace and mercy and be rejected from the cities of refuge under the dispensation period of law. Satan is smiling with glee as the Christian Right around the world filled with a new apparent zealousness for God and proclaiming the Ten Commandments and crusades against Gays. The church are calling judgment on themselves and by their desire for the dispensation of law, they negate the grace of God and made it cheap. Unlike Israel, the church have not accounted for the innocent blood and have sinned continuously against the Gay minority. The Christian Right is opening the door for Satan, the accuser of brethren, to effectively come against Christians.
Recently, a straight friend of mine commented that He was unhappy that the Oscar best director award went to Mr Ang Lee of Brokeback mountain. He said the show grieved the Spirit. I replied that Ang was a deserving winner and it was a good show. I queried whether it was his spirit or the Holy Spirit? Yes, the show did grieved the Holy Spirit. He was grieved by the hardness of heart that my friend displayed and by the oppression of Gays by well meaning Christians which in turn limited the blessing of God upon their own lives.
We are appropriately grieved by various trials when we suffer unfairly under the hands of others. As gays and Christian, we suffer greatly. We lived in conflicted lives with our faith and theology constantly challenged as we grasped why those who should be doing otherwise oppressed us . As a minority, we are lonely, isolated, and defenseless whilst condemned weekly by the Christian Churches. We put up walls and closets and compartmentalized our faith and sexuality to make sense of life and make living possible. But the call of God today is to rejoice for through it all, our faith is being molded and our character purified by the fires of oppression if we have right attitude and do not falter in our faith that God in Christ is still in control and will see us through.
The call of God to Gay Christians is to come back to Him and not to depart from their faith. Jesus is our city of refuge. He has manifested His presence in sanctuaries of Gay Christian worship that He has created right within every major cities around the world. For outside these places of sanctuary, they will be open to attacks. We are oppressed at every side. We are tired and broken hearted. We are afraid and rightely so for the authorities can at any time arrest us or shut down our church, bars and saunas. We are afraid of our future without a family and no children to look after us. But in Christ, there is hope, protection and salvation. Be strong, for He will come and save you. Do not loose your faith. He is our city of refuge in this day of trouble and sorrow.