In a bizarre, live version of “where’s Waldo,” the world has been following Edward Snowden’s travel itinerary with great interest. If you aren’t aware, Snowden was a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He leaked information about top-secret surveillance programs to the press, and was charged with espionage and theft. Snowden sees himself as a hero, but the government sees him as a fugitive and wants him brought to justice. The problem, though, is getting to him before he gets to one of the countries that has offered him asylum.
Asylum is an old idea. In fact, in the bible (Joshua 20), there were 6 “cities of refuge” that carried with them the idea of asylum. In those days, if someone had murdered another person, their blood relative might become an “avenger of blood” and try to bring that person to justice. However, if the death was accidental, and the fugitive could make it to one of the cities of refuge, they could call upon the leaders of that city to help them.
Of course, a lot has changed in the world of refuge. The real purpose of asylum in scripture was to make sure the accused had a fair trial. In the bible, the one who was fleeing had to stand trial and receive asylum (if innocent) or punishment (if guilty). Today, asylum seems to be a way to avoid justice. Today’s “cities of refuge” seem to be China, Russia, and now Venezuela.
Nevertheless, there is only one true place of refuge. I thank God that, in Christ, we have a refuge far greater than a city or country! If you want to have your sins washed clean, there is only one way to do so – become a child of God and live in His refuge. It is unclear how history will judge Snowden, but each of us will stand before the judgment seat in order to be judged for the deeds we have done in the flesh. Those who are in Christ will have protection because we are covered by one in whom there was no sin. Perfect asylum!