God is my refuge. You've probably heard that before. The question is not whether God is a refuge, but how we are finding refuge with God.
For what seems like a lot of Christians, we are finding refuge behind God. We are using Him as our front, then crouching behind this wall we've erected of Him and trying to figure out how to engage the world from the trenches.
That's certainly one way to go about it.... It's not the Biblical way, of course. God didn't design you to live in the trenches, and He didn't send you into the world to build walls. (Unless, of course, you're Nehemiah, and then, have at it!) But God's never been about building dividing lines between His people; that's what He spent so much time arguing with the Pharisees about.
And yet, here we are still doing that, 2000 years later. Someone doesn't sin in the same way that we sin, and that makes them (and to a lesser degree, us, but to a much lesser degree) a sinner. Someone doesn't worship in the same way that we worship, and that makes their worship meaningless or stupid. Someone emphasizes law over love, and they're a legalist; someone emphasizes love over law, and they're an anarchist. Someone reads what the Bible says; someone reads what the Bible means. And heaven forbid we step out of our churches for a minute and look at the way we're building walls between ourselves, as Christians, and a society that's tending ever further away from Christ.
We feel like we have to draw our battle lines, and we put God right out there in front as if He's some sort of barbed wire. As if, were we to reach out, we'd be poked. And anyone who tries to reach in faces the same fate.
There's absolutely nothing righteous about this. Nothing.
But God is our refuge! we cry. If we don't stand behind Him, where is our refuge?
Hear the psalmist:
O Lord my God, I have taken refuge in you. (7:1)
We take our refuge in God, not behind Him. Less a wall and more a...lodge. On a harsh mountain when winter winds blow, God is the place that keeps the fire burning. His loving embrace wraps us up and blocks out the wind. When the waves are crashing all around us, God is our steady ship. In its hull, the waves may crash, but they can't crush. Persecuted by the world around us, we run into His temple, enveloped by His holy presence.
Refuge in God is something we take, not something we build. Refuge in God is part of who He is, not who we set Him up to be. Nobody cowers behind Jesus; we kneel in front of Him. There, His shadow falls over us, and we are safe.
The great thing about this is that it doesn't set us up against one another; there's plenty of room in the refuge for everyone. It gives us a place to laugh together over hot chocolate, to share stories around the fire, to take these amazing deep breaths of grace together and simply be, at rest, in the presence of God. We don't have to worry about the dangers of reaching out in love; there are none. It's as easy as walking across the room. Or looking up and making eye contact. Or exchanging one strong handshake. It's as easy as the sign over the mantle and the mat at the door that simply say, Welcome.
Welcome to the refuge. Come on in.