The Church as a Hospital

Castlemaine Hospital Ward c. 1894

JP: Image above is from Mt. Alexander Hospital, Australia. Article cited discusses campus ministries and sexual sins. A worthwhile read.

The Church as a Hospital


When a person is united to Christ by faith, that person is united to Christ in the power of his death and resurrection, which means for the sinner power to die to sin and to live a new life to God. But sin does not go away completely. Some of the disease remains, and there are relapses – some of them severe.

One way we might illustrate it is this: Suppose a person has a case of cancer that is treatable and controllable, but not curable (I know of one such case). That person, when initially diagnosed, gets treatment that, in a sense, ‘knocks the cancer down.’ But the person still has cancer cells, and from time to time they begin to grow again and need more rounds of treatment. Some of the relapses are rather minor, some are major (indeed life-threatening if not addressed), but in the big picture the disease can be dealt with by the treatment.

There are two questions with regard to the Christian and the sin-disease: First, is there any case that is beyond hope? The biblical answer is, ‘No.’ All sin may be forgiven, and all sin can be fought once the faith-connection with Christ is established. Where does the church come in? The church has got to act toward sinners in accord with this reality. All sinners are welcome to seek treatment from the church-hospital, and in every case the church will do all it can to help the sinner, no matter what the sin, in terms of nature and number. And the church will do that, believing that God can and will, if he pleases, give that person the healing he or she needs – both forgiveness of the old life and strength to live a new life.

The second question is: What does the church do about relapses that become known to it? (Of course, we all know that there are many relapses that are not known to the whole church, and, in some cases, to any other human.) When the church-hospital becomes aware of the problem, it does not pretend that the problem does not exist. It tells the patient the truth, and it urges treatment. But the church-hospital does not discharge the person as a hopeless case either. It doesn’t matter how frequent or how serious the relapses are, so long as the patient submits to the treatment offered. The treatment, of course, is the means of grace, and the effects are fresh forgiveness and renewal of the new way of life.

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