Situated unabashed in front of our little parish is a sign welcoming all to join us for worship. More than once I have wondered if such offers of hospitality were perceived as a sign to the sick, inviting them to come and be made well or simply an offer of a comfortable night’s rest?
There has been a tremendous shift, as of late, to see the Church as a refuge. This should arouse little wonder as “love has grown cold” in these last days and hate for one another has only increased (cf. Matt. 24:10,11). Yet, with the desire to see the Church become a sanctuary from hate there has been a serious misunderstanding.
While it is true that God loves everyone as they are, it is also true that He loves everyone so much that He will not leave them as they are.
The Church is a Hospital, a hospital that is always welcoming new patients. But, if the Church is a hospital there must also be sickness.
It is on this point that a disconnect exists between the Church and our surrounding society. The modern medical and psychological community has displayed a prodigious propensity for finding new diseases and disorders. Yet, at the same time there seems to be an intense unwillingness to find any link between moral behavior and bodily and mental maladies. There is no longer sin, only genetics, environments, and imbalances.
But, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” (I Tim. 1:15). For the Church, there are no other persons beside sinners within her walls, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Church is therefore not surprised to see both within and without her walls disorder and illness running rampant. Sin is nothing more than a disease, a corruption, and a disintegration of that which God created good (cf. Gen 1:31). Whether it be physical intimacy, worship, love, friendship, these have all been turned inside out and upside down: angels have become demons and creatures have been turned into idols. But, at the same time, the good is still there, no matter to what degree it may have been obscured.
The Church welcomes all because all contain the potential to be restored to wholeness.
But, the Church offers restoration to all; not by pretending that sick men are well but by carefully diagnosing the sickness of each and offering them the Remedy, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
A friend once described the joy of heaven as the joy of no longer sinning. Would not the Church be the greatest of shams were she to open wide her doors to all and yet offer no relief from the sickness and destruction of sin? If Jesus is our Savior, from what does He save but from sin?
In the next segment of this series, we will explore further of what this salvation consists.