The final question we have to ask as relates to modern-day sanctuary cities, citing the biblical example of the cities of refuge, is what to do with the persons who have ended up here.
The cities of refuge were never meant to be home; at the death of the high priest, men went back to the places where they belonged - their homes, their families, their lands, their lives. So how do we deal with the thousands of illegal immigrants who now live in our sanctuary cities? At what point are they free to leave and to inhabit their own homes with their own families on their own land and live their own lives?
That depends, of course, on the conclusions that you've reached to this point.
If a criminal law has been broken, then it is not as simple as saying that we should just round them all up and ship them out. When someone leaves a sanctuary city, they get their land - and their life - back. So if we are going to send them to the countries from which they came, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that they're going back to a life there. We cannot just send them "away."
This will bring us face-to-face, however, with the origins of illegal immigration. In trying to secure a land and a life for those we are deporting, we come to discover the very factors that led them to flee in the first place. We see the poverty. We see the insecurity. We see the war, the famine, the disease, the corruption, the trouble that makes a man pick up and leave everything, taking a chance on a better life even when that life begins with the breaking of a (criminal or covenant) law.
As Christians, witnessing this trouble cannot be a neutral event for us. It must spur our compassion. Thus, we work either to restore the conditions to which the immigrant is being deported or we re-evaluate our position of the man who has come to dwell in our city of refuge.
If a covenant law has been broken, then our duty is to figure out how to restore the man to the covenant community that he has violated. This means making a way for him to leave the sanctuary city and establish himself in a place of his choosing.
This is the kind of thing that makes a lot of persons upset about the current system. They refer to all of the "handouts" that illegal immigrants receive, or even to the "handouts" that refugees receive. They don't understand what it takes to start a life all over again, what is necessary to establish roots in a new community. It feels like it's too easy, like it's too free, but this is the nature of covenant, is it not? Men must have a way to be restored to the community. In the case of illegal immigration, this sometimes means we have to give them a good deal of help in accomplishing this.
But men were never intended to live as refugees forever. So we have to do something.
This, I think, is enough to get us thinking about the idea of sanctuary cities from a theological point of view. It's not all politics, and it's not all humanity; it's love. It's love for the immigrant and love for our community and love for our country and love for our world and love for our God. It's love for each other. It's love at its core. And it's not easy.
The questions are not easy, and they are not limited to just the few that I have been able to present this week. But hopefully, this can be used as a launch pad for learning how to think about some of the tougher issues that are facing us in our modern times. I have drawn no conclusions and have tried to give ear to both dominant sides of the issue; the conclusions are yours to draw. The only thing we cannot do is to ignore the issue entirely. It is real. It is here. And it demands a response.
Whatever you do, whatever you think, whatever conclusions you draw, let it be done in wisdom, in grace, in compassion, and in love.