We live in an imperfect world, where we fail to treat each other as we should. It would be very easy to say we should behave better, that we should try to do better, but we would be neglecting the cause of the problem. For the reason we say wrong things and do wrong things is because of our hearts. Not the heart of just the emotions, but the heart in terms of our thoughts as well. For the people of the Old Testament considered the heart to be our essential being.
The problem with our heart is that it is corrupted and needs fixing.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Lk 6:45
The only person who can fix our heart is Jesus Christ. Through faith in him, he will give us a new heart, one which seeks to do good, to do his will, and to slowly put away the things of the old heart.
In order to nurture this change, we must guard our hearts. We must be careful what habits we form, what literature we read, what situations do we allows ourselves into and what do we allow ourselves to see and hear. This is is prime concern – above all things. Just as eating a poor diet will lead us to a poor physical state, so will having a poor spiritual will lead us to a poor spiritual state. For if our hearts are unguarded, it will take on what it is fed and manifest itself in our behaviour.
Conversely, to enable our new hearts to grow, we must feed on good spiritual food. We must feed on the word of God daily, through private study and through the meeting together to hear the word.
As the Israelites settle in the promised land, they are instructed to create unique cities of refuge, where those who accidently kill someone may flee that they might escape revenge and allow justice to be done.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mt 11:27,28
As we go through life, God offers us refuge for our souls in his Son. In a similar way to the cities of refuge, it is a refuge instructed by God. It is God who takes the initiative. However, whilst the cities were designated for those who were innocent of breaking the laws of the state, the refuge of his Son is offered to us who have broken his laws – those who are sinners. Whilst those who fled to the cities fled injustice, those who seek refuge in the Son feel the just and righteous wrath of God.
Just as the cities were the only places a person could take refuge, so Jesus Christ is the only true refuge for sinners. For if there were any other way available, then the sacrifice of God the Son would not have been necessary, but only the Son had the ability and willingness to offer this refuge.
Of course, the cities were of no use to anyone who didn’t flee to them, nor to anyone who didn’t stay in them and the Israelites were instructed to keep the roads to the cities well-maintained. We must seek to take refuge in Jesus Christ, and not only that but to maintain refuge in him. We are not to hinder those who wish to take refuge either in word or deed, but seek to offer this refuge to all.