There was a couple with their first new child. The child fell ill and they needed to take the child to the doctor. They were new to town and so they just drove to where the hospitals were. There were three all on the same street.
As they got out of the car and headed to the nicest looking facility they encountered what appeared to be a homeless man. His concern for the despair on the couples’ face moved him to speak. “Oh, excuse me folks, but you don’t want to go there” “Why not?”, they replied with cautious reserve. “Because they don’t cure anybody at Lakewood Hospital.” The couple was amazed. “But we checked online on the way over here and it has 5-star reviews from everyone and talks about how nice and friendly the staff is. What is wrong with it?” The man said, “Nobody comes out alive. They go there, and doctors tell them all encouraging things, but they never tell people what’s wrong with them. They won’t do surgery because it's too invasive. They won’t do chemo because the side effects are so difficult. They don’t use defibrillators because of the shock to the body. You see folks, all they do is tell you how great you are, and how wonderful things are, and give you medicine that make you feeeeeel like you’re on cloud nine. They never heal you. They only make you feel better about dying. No ma’am no sir, I’d never take my child there. But it’s up to you. That’s your baby now.”
The couple paused for a good while as they thought about what the man said, then
they asked him, “What about the hospital next door then? We didn’t consider it before because the reviews were bad.” The man humbly replied, “You can take your baby there. They will give you the right treatment, but they won’t treat you right.” “What do you mean?”, befuddled at his reply. “Well, at Drill Sargent Medical Center they do offer all of the right treatments. There are some good doctors there in that they know what they are doing, but they are not good doctors in that they are not kind or compassionate when necessary. They yell and scream at everybody. They are always telling patients how worthless they are, and they belittle and demean people constantly. Some people are so devastated psychologically that even when they are getting better, they feel worse. You can take your baby there, and they may help her with her illness, but they may harm her in other ways.”
“Then what do we do?” the parents said in despair. “Well, if I were you I’d go across the street there and take her there, to Shepherd’s Way Hospital. If you want the appropriate care, that’s the place to go. They respect you, and they will treat your daughter, and I believe she will be just fine. They are a good hospital.” “But it looks so old and so small”, they protested. “I know”, said the old man, “it’s your baby. I’m just an old man you don’t even know… but if it was my baby that’s where I would go. Where she would get the right treatment, and be treated right. Isn’t that what truly matters?”
“The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”
The above is a quote that I have heard for many years. People who come into the church are sinners. Oftentimes they are weary and broken… mentally… spiritually… emotionally (Ephesians 2:1-6; Luke 10:25-37). The church is made up of real people dealing with real life, and real life can be hard. The body of Christ, His church, is here to mend that which is broken. To lift up that which is downtrodden. To strengthen that which is weak (Hebrews 12:12-13; Galatians 6:1-2; Romans 15:1-7). To fix that which is broken. But how? The point of the quote above is designed to get us to think about our spirituality—that we are supposed to be loving people and helping people. But how? The answer is with the right treatment (truth), and treating people right (with love).
There are many churches today that exist just to make their congregants feel comfortable while they perish in their sins. They host concerts every week, they tell stories that rouse the emotions, they promise people eternal joys, peace, comforts, rewards… but they never tell the people the truth. Not the “gospel truth” anyway. And without gospel truth, we are lost (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). They are like that first hospital in the parable, Lakewood Hospital, the one that only says happy, nice, positive, encouraging words, but never actually treats the patients. What good is a hospital that only makes you feel good about the way you are dying; without ever truly healing/helping you to live? What good is there in a church that does the same?
The other extreme, of course, is the second hospital in the parable. They may have “the truth”, in that they have the right answers to what ails you and how to fix it, but there is still only abuse there, and not love. Brethren have strayed in this way too often through the centuries in developing an attitude that the ONLY thing that matters is being right. But the Lord shows us that there is more to it than that. That to BE right is more than just having the right answers but also having the right attitudes and actions (Matthew 23:1-33; I John 5:3). What good is a hospital that solves one problem in you by giving you “the cure”, but creates two or three more problems in your life because their treatment towards you as a person was harmful?
“All love is not lovely.”
In the Lord’s church, we must understand that we do need to be a hospital for sinners—that we must have the right treatment (gospel truth) and treat people right (gospel love). If we truly love people we are going to respect that they are people. We are going to treat them like people, we are going to treat them as we would want to be treated (Mark 12:31), we are going to treat them like Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). We are going to exhort and encourage them the best we can. (I Thessalonians 5:11)