What Sanctuary Do We Seek

The word “sanctuary” carries two distinct meanings:

  1. A holy place, a building set aside for worship of a god
  2. A place of refuge or protection; asylum

Webster’s New World Dictionary elaborates—

Fugitives from justice were immune from arrest in churches or other sacred places—immunity from punishment or the law… [1]Webster’s New World Dictionary, Collins & World.

While many clergymen today are willing to talk about sin or sinners they are usually hesitant to speak at them. The underlying thought is probably that their presence in the congregation is as much as can be hoped for, a critique made by Malcolm Muggeridge:

One of the most effective defense systems against God’s incursions has hitherto been organized religion. Various churches have provided a refuge for fugitives from God—His voice drowned in the chanting, His smell lost in the incense, His purpose obscured and confused in creeds, dogmas, dissertations… in vast cathedrals, as in little conventicles… one could get away from God. [2]Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered, Family Library, p. 47.

As long as the sinner frequents the bars and brothels he is easy to identify, but as soon as he begins to attend church services, no one dares call him a sinner! The church sanctuary has in fact become a marvelous hiding place for sinners. Knowing that the minister will not point a finger at his sins, the sinner finds protection. So long as we preach about sin rather than at sin, organized religion will not ultimately minister at the personal level. As C. S. Lewis has said, “…Corporate guilt perhaps cannot be, and certainly is not, felt with the same force as personal guilt. [3]C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Macmillan, p. 60.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Webster’s New World Dictionary, Collins & World.
2. Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered, Family Library, p. 47.
3. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Macmillan, p. 60.