Is Church a Haven for Saints or a Hospital for the Sick?
Jesus Didn’t Come for the Righteous but for Sinners
As Jesus walks along he sees a tax collector, Levi. He says to Levi, “Follow me.”
Levi gets up, leaves everything, and follows Jesus. Then Levi throws a party for his tax-collector friends. Jesus is there hanging out with them. As often the case, the religious leaders criticize Jesus. They don’t think he should eat with notorious tax collectors and “sinners.”
Like always, Jesus has a response that catches everyone off guard. He says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, only the sick.” Then he makes his point, “I didn’t come to earth to call righteous people to repent. Instead I came to encourage sinners to turn their lives around.” (See Luke 5:27-32, Mark 2:14-17.)
Shouldn’t we do the same?
Most Churches are a Haven for Saints
But most churches focus on the righteous, the people who appear to have their act together. These churches don’t care about sinners, not really. Yes, they say they do, but who do they invite to church? It’s usually other Christians, not non-Christians. Church folks are uncomfortable hanging out with the non-churched. So-called sinners make them uneasy.
(Remember, we all sin. It’s just that some of us have been made right through the gift of God’s goodness, Ephesians 2:8-9.)
Instead, we Christians spend time with people like us, not the people who need Jesus the most. For most people, the longer we’ve been a Christian, the fewer non-Christian friends we have.
Yet Jesus does the opposite. He ignores religious insiders, the righteous people. Instead he spends a lot of time interacting with those on the outside, the people society dismisses as sinners and outcasts. But they’re the ones he wants to help. They’re the ones who need him the most. People who need Jesus need a safe place where they can encounter him and learn about him. They need love, not judgment. Click To Tweet
Make Church a Hospital for the Sick
People who need Jesus need a safe place where they can encounter him and learn about him. They need love, not judgment. They need to be able to come to Jesus as they are, not after they’ve changed their lifestyle to become “good.”
When Jesus calls Levi, he doesn’t call the tax collector to change his behaviors. Jesus calls Levi to simply, “Follow me.”
Shouldn’t we and our churches do the same? Shouldn’t we focus on encouraging people who need Jesus to follow him? Instead we’ve turned our churches into a comfortable club where we sequester ourselves from the world and spend time with each other—ignoring the people who need Jesus.
Look Outward at People Who Need Jesus, Not Inward at Ourselves
When we make church a haven for saints, we have a selfish perspective. We hold an internal focus. However, when we view church as a hospital for the sick, we have a selfless perspective. We hold an external focus.
We need to put others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:3)—especially those who need Jesus.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.