November 05, 2013
I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the Church lately. What is the Church’s role in society today? What is its primary posture towards culture? I think we all know that there are some hot topics floating around that tend to spark debate in this conversation. As I ponder these types of questions, one image keeps running through my brain: The Church should be like a military hospital.
A hospital is known for caring for sick and wounded people. Now, imagine a hospital located near a battlefield. It will service a lot of sick and wounded people. Now, a solider who is wounded in battle does everything in his power to protect his wound from exposure. The battlefield is no place to be wounded. Soldiers have to cover and hide wounds in order to survive, so they wrap, superglue, cover and patch every wound they incur. Only until a solder comes into the hospital is it acceptable to uncover his wounds. It is the job of the doctors and nurses to gain enough of a soldier’s trust to expose his wounds in complete vulnerability. Then, it is the job of the doctors and nurses heal that solider. And so, doctors and nurses expect to see wounds. They aren’t surprised by them. Imagine a solider coming in with a gunshot to the leg and the ER nurse first lectures the kid for allowing himself to get shot. Is that going to happen? No. Step one is heal the wound, not shame the soldier. Then, after he’s healed, step two is tell the kid not to get shot again.
I think the Church, the Body of Christ, is designed to be a hospital for hurts, wounds, sin, habits, etc. We are designed to administer grace. Too often I send a mixed message because I’ve fallen into the false teaching of moving beyond my own need for grace. Theologically I still believe in it, but I switch my focus from my constant need for grace. I want to improve to the point that I don’t need grace and so I hold others to that standard as well. I’m like a doctor who wants to move beyond the need to use medicine. That’s just not right. To be sure, I don’t think the Church should condone sin any more than a hospital endorses battle-wounds; however, we shouldn’t be surprised when faced with sinners. After all, Scripture presents the overabundance of grace through Christ. God’s grace is poured on us like Niagara Falls would fill a paper cup.
The question is, then, how do we become a place known for grace? How do we become a place that doesn’t endorse sin but also isn’t so repulsed by it that we don’t offer grace through Christ. After all, healing and transformation come after and through grace, not before. A military hospital should expect hurt soldiers to walk through their doors. Churches should expect sinners to do the same. How do we change the current perception of the Church? I don’t know. But I know I want to be in a Church that is like a military hospital. It’s the kind of Church I need. It’s the kind of Church the world needs.
Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.
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