SanctuaryI was very grateful to receive a large amount of feedback about my suggestion to put a sign outside our church suggesting sanctuary could be found at St Hilda’s. Considering and discussing the matter has been a valuable exercise and I have been convicted that it’s worth doing.

The majority of people who spoke to me were very positive about the idea, however I was very glad to hear the few people who contacted me with some concerns. The question as to what is to be done with those seeking asylum in our country is a complex and perplexing issue with no easy solution. For more than a year now, we as a church have been considering various aspects of the problem, we’ve had a number of guest speakers address us, we’ve contacted local members and many discussions have gone on at a range of levels as to what we as a fellowship can do to make a contribution to this dilemma.

I am convicted that while this sign is little more than a token act, it is a chance to let our community know of our concern about the plight of these people in such great need.

My great concern is that our witness to our community is one that honours Christ and does not cause a hindrance for the gospel. There are many who, even in recent days in the media, have accused the church of having nothing to say about this issue. I know both as a church, and as individuals, we have raised our concerns in a number of forums, but much of that can go unnoticed. Putting a sign out the front of the church gives us the chance to express our concerns in the most public of ways, while also offering a statement as to where sanctuary can be found. I hope and pray it will give rise to some valuable gospel conversations, and it’s my intention to be talking through this opportunity with our Open Church volunteers.

In fact, it gives us all the opportunity to discuss further as a church family what God’s word has to say about the current situation and I would invite you to let me know if you are interested in participating in a bible study with me on the issue. (Further details to come).

It is clear that our government is struggling with what to do about the problem, it appears an impossible situation. To welcome some asylum seekers is to encourage more to come, which gives us a bigger problem. However, others might see such an escalation as more opportunity to help more people in need.

As Christians we need to seriously consider how committed we are to our standard of living and how committed we are to the biblical injunction; “The Lord defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:18–19)

It is true the poor will always be with us. But I note that that didn’t stop Jesus doing everything he could, and that on occasions he and the disciples were so overwhelmed by the needs that came to them, they didn’t even have time to eat. (Mark 6.31) Australia, as the richest country in the world, is certainly not at that point yet.

Ray Robinson

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