a hospital not a museum

My dad recently had surgery – though he’s not in the hospital… so this is not about him.  But get better dad. 

I recently had a conversation with a fellow-pastor.  In our banter, he referenced the adage, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”   Kinda goes with the “strong faith is for weak people.”  In fact, he had been told to use the word “strong” as many times as he could in our conversation just to see if he could tick ole weakchristian off.

Most of us have heard the statement before.  A nice saying.  Catchy and memorable.  But actually, it’s a harsh saying that won’t win many points among “strong Christians” if pastors/teachers/believers actually believe and declare such a thing.  It is one thing to say it (it sounds great to the strong and the weak) it is another thing to BE it.  It is anything but normal and expected and politically correct in the church.   Yet it is biblical – “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”(Mark 2:17). 

Imagine the mess if the church were truly a hospital for sick sinners with no place (but the waiting room, I guess) for self-declared healthy people!

Think about it.  This kind of a church has to be oozing and gross and urgent.  It calls all of us to look BOTH at our wounds/weaknesses and those of others (not just our closest friends – would never work in a hospital).  It calls for that kind of self-discovery and divulgence!  We only know a wound if it is visible (external authenticity) and we only know an illness if it has manifestations (internal tranparency).  That is the description of the church.  Kinda like in Patch Adams, all patients are doctors, because no doctor is exempt from being a patient. 

The church is a gospel hospital where the balm is always the gospel and the patients are the doctors who are the patients. 

OK, so that was one conversation last week (about the church being a hospital).  Then this week, Kori (my wife) said to me – “I think I have it figured out.”  Figured what out, I asked.  She said, “Why life and relationships (etc.) often seem harder for believers than unbelievers.”  She went on: “Because if Jesus came to call the sick, not the healthy…  and those who are in Christ’s church are the ones he has called… then we’re all the messed up really sick ones who need his grace the most.”  And I think she’s not funny.  Nice.  (Not implying that those outside the church are healthy and don’t need the gospel – my wife is orhodox.)

So 2 recent conversations, both without Scripture reference, yet both pointing me to Mark 2:17.  THEN, I got up this morning and studied for my sick soul what I’ll be preaching in 2 weeks.  Go figure, Mark 2:13ff.    p-r-o-v-i-d-e-n-c-e.  These conversations will reappear from a pulpit near you.


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