Most of us have probably heard it said that the Church is like a hospital for sick people (sinners), not a mansion for healthy people (saints), or something to that effect. The analogy is apt, especially in light of Jesus being the Great Physician and we all being sinners. As Jesus said, the sick people need the doctor, not the well ones.
The good news of the gospel is that God loved us so much He gave His only Son to die for us and to call us to repentance. That is where we find healing from our illness of sin. The Church’s job is to spread this good news to the rest of the world.
In order for a hospital or the Church to provide healing, there must be diagnosis and treatment. This is where things get tricky. People want to be welcomed at the door, but they don’t always want to be diagnosed. Even if they allow themselves to be diagnosed, they may be unwilling to follow the doctor’s orders.
The Church (like a hospital) also works against the spread of disease (sin). Consequently, if a patient is spreading “germs” that may infect others, the Church has the obligation to try and contain the outbreak. Some patients may be a “health risk” without even realizing it. They need to be informed and instructed on what to do for their own health as well as the health of everyone else. That’s why the Church puts boundaries on certain behaviors. We all impact each other.
The Church has to balance her responsibility to welcome all sinners with her responsibility to diagnose and treat sinners. Even if the Church is the most loving, warm, welcoming place on Earth, we still need to hear what our sins are. We need the diagnosis. Coming to Christ requires repentance. We need to know what to repent of. If the Church does not let us know what our sins are, she is not really doing her job. The Great Physician is in the healing business, but, in order to heal, He must also diagnose and prescribe. This is where many Christians lose the balance.
It does no good to get people in the door then refuse to call them to repentance. It is even worse to draw people in by calling their evil deeds good, thereby robbing them of their need for repentance and healing. Often, when people are told, “What you are doing is immoral” they will head for the door. So, a lot of churches would rather say, “What you’re doing is fine,” or, say nothing at all. Such churches may have pleasant bedside manners, but they do people a disservice by failing to diagnose and prescribe.
Other churches are so determined to point out sin that they forget the importance of a good bedside manner. People generally won’t hear the message until they feel a certain degree of trust and safety that can only be established through genuine, caring relationships. When we sense how much the doctor cares, we are more likely to follow the prescription.
Jesus was welcoming to everyone. He loves us unconditionally, but He also calls us to holiness. Jesus pointed out sin, called for repentance and said, “Go and sin no more.” He welcomed, He diagnosed and He prescribed. Still, some people accepted Him, and some people walked away from Him. So it is with the Church. The doctor must be kind and honest with the patient, but the patient must cooperate with the doctor in order for healing to take place.