Friday, November 22, 2013
The Church should be a Hospital
I believe that we as Christians, as "little Christs" and followers of Him, we are to model Him, not only in His vision of ministry, but also in His attitudes toward sinners.
My heart is warmed when I read this passage, as I see Jesus' spending His precious and valuable time eating with sinners and tax collectors, what people considered the "scum of the earth" in those days.
Eating, in Jesus' time, was more than just eating food. It was a time to share food, ideas, experiences and simply life.
Eating was communal. Jesus was making community with sinners.
Think about it. He could have chosen to make community with the elite; the religious leaders, those in positions of authority in the roman world, and yet he chooses to spend his precious time and beautiful presence with sinners.
This blows my mind.
What also blows my mind is how different the church can be from Jesus.
I have observed and heard from many an attitude from churchgoers that mirrors more the Pharisees' than it does Jesus'
I look at my parish and wonder, if a smelly, homeless, drug addict walked in to church, would he feel welcome? Would people sit next to him or her? Would they try to keep their kids away from that person?
If a transgender individual walked in, would he feel welcomed and loved?
If someone suffering from alcoholism walked in, still with a hangover, would he or she feel welcomed and loved?
When I walk in my church, I wonder, "where are the homeless, the drug addicts, the prostitutes and pimps? Where are the drug dealers and the gangsters?"
Are our churches devoid of such people because the so called "sinners" are uninterested about God?
Or is it because they don't feel welcomed and loved?
Sure, we can shortcut to the first option, but I believe all of us have a hunger for God, for our hearts are restlessly yearning for its creator until they rest in Him.
I believe they don't usually come because they don't feel loved and accepted.
The church should be looking for the sinners. If Christ is our redemptor, if He truly is our savior, then our main interest should be sinners.
If the church (and I talk here not of the institution or a building, but of the community of believers, the mystical body of Christ) is like a hospital, then it should be filled with sick people.
But we can be so busy criticizing the sick that we forget that Christ is our cure! What a dysfunctional hospital we can be! A hospital full of doctors so busy criticizing and commenting and complaining about the sick and yet refusing to take care of them!
And when we do "take care of them" is usually so unChrist like. We Bible thump and call to repentance, we quote scriptures and point fingers. We remind them of their "shameful" sins and worldliness and their need to just "repent and change".
But we don't see this in Christ dealing with sinners. He had community with them.
The Bible tells us that He ate with sinners, not used-to-be-and-now-converted-sinners, meaning He never waited for them to repent before making community with them. He simply accepted them into His presence before they even repented! How opposite is that from what many of us do!
No brothers and sisters, it is in community that mutual repentance must come, not apart from community.
And before we can have community we must accept each other into our collective presence.
Community comes first, repentance and change as a result from community with Christ and His body.
We have it twisted. We demand that sinners repent and get "sanitized" enough before they are accepted into our community.
Brothers and sisters, let us fill our churches and our communities with the sinners the world most hate; the rejected, the drunk and the hungover.
Let us hold the hand of the drug addict on the streets, even if his or her other hands is still busy injecting their bodies with drugs.
Let us not just give food to the poor, but also sit down in the same table with them, eating the same food we give them while we share our life with them.
Let us go and make community with the one prostituting their body on the street, even as they wait for their next "client".
Let's go and eat with sinners again, just as Jesus did. Maybe in the end we will realize we are just sinners like them.