Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Church: Hospital or Hospice?

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10 AV).

Have you ever heard someone say that the church is not a health resort for the saints but a hospital for the sick? This illustration is usually presented to emphasize the fact that Christians are not fully sanctified on this side of the kingdom. We are sinners who continue to struggle with the vestiges of our sin nature, even after we are converted and begin the journey of progressive sanctification.

A Pastor friend of mine, however, recently offered an interesting critique of this old adage. He noted that some have a tendency to use this kind of sentiment to justify the habitual continuation of sinful patterns of behavior in their lives. Such are also quite likely to proclaim things like, "I’m not perfect, just forgiven." At worst, some can use this notion to say, in effect, "Leave my sin alone!"

My Pastor friend noted that sometimes such folk are not really thinking of the church as a hospital but as a hospice. Hospice is the care given to those with a terminal illness when no more treatment is suggested or warranted. In a hospice the patient stops seeking active treatment and just seeks to be made comfortable till the end arrives. Some want to be left alone to die with their besetting sin.

Those who expect recovery, however, go to a hospital not a hospice. You go to a hospital in order to receive treatment, take high-powered medicine, have surgery, regain health, and recover from your illness. If the church is truly a hospital for the sick (and not a hospice), then it ought to be a place where we do not expect to rest easy with the disease of sin. Instead, it is a place where we seek all means available to eradicate the poison of sin from our flesh, so that we can have life and health in Christ to the fullest.

Yes, we are a hospital for the sick. But we are not a hospice.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article for 9/10/08.

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