You’ve heard it said “churches are hospitals for sinners”—since we are all broken, all can find healing there. The question then arises, does the medicine restore what is diseased and broken or is it be about handing out quasi-spiritual pain killers to mask the pain, leaving the sick person unchanged?
Ellen White wrote, “To repent means to be sorry for sin and to turn away from it. We will not give up sin unless we see how sinful it is. There will be no real change in our lives until we stop loving sin and decide to turn from it” (Steps to Christ, p13).
Our faith is focused on reconciling fallen humanity to God and supporting one another—repentant sinners—to live godly lives through the living, transformative Word of God, encouraging each other until His return (Hebrews 10:25). Our faith should transform us (Romans 12:2). We are justified by Jesus daily who sanctifies (the work of a lifetime) until we are glorified and made new at His return (Romans 3:22-28).
However there seems to be a desire to change the biblical purpose of the transforming church into the affirming church. While we absolutely believe every person is made in the image of God, we cannot affirm what is in opposition to God in our fallen nature. We don’t require people to be well before they show up for treatment, but what hospital heals people by convincing them they are not sick? Hospitals are blunt in their assessment. They perform a series of tests to discover what is wrong and what needs to be done to transform the diseased body into a healed one. Churches should be spiritually transformative, healing environments. How do we convince society they are broken and need salvation? Without arrogance or poor behaviour (too often the charge against church) and with humility, empathy, compassion, in the manner of a medical professional.
Jesus consistently welcomed in a countercultural manner. He ate and drank with sinners. He was hospitable, gracious and welcoming to all. But His public comportment was consistently shared with a call to conversion and transformation. Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark were “repent for the kingdom of God is near”. He was loving, welcoming to all who needed rest—but called them to repent and be transformed by His grace.
We need to build our churches into havens of rest where everyone is welcome; the Holy Spirit’s power transforms, bringing true healing and rest by renewing each mind; a transformative environment where good news is shared and encouragement given as we prepare for His second coming.