"Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'" (Luke 5:31)
It's an occasion that most people will experience many, many times over the course of their lives. You get a sniffle, you go. You have a non-stop gut churning headache, you go. You break out in hives, you go. You break something, you go. You cut something, you go. You do this, you do that, you do the other, you go, you go, you go. In fact, there may come more than one season in your life where you feel like you see your doctor more than you see anyone else ..... and for that, aren't we very thankful. For those of us who live outside the borders of most third world countries, going to the doctor's office or to a hospital is one of the first things we do when we get sick or injured. Whether you live in a small town or a gigantic metropolis, most people in the United States are just a few miles away in any direction from a good doctor, clinic, or hospital. Although the members of the male species may be a tad bit more hard-headed than their female counterparts and tend to wait a little longer before going, let a man or woman get sick enough and eventually they go looking for someone who can help them feel better again. It just stands to reason, you get hungry, you go to the store. You want to be educated, you go to school. Your car breaks down, you go to a mechanic. You get sick, you go to the doctor. These decisions are really self explanatory. It's not brain surgery ..... which of course would require a doctor too :)
Much like a doctor's office or a hospital, for most of us there are multiple churches just a stones throw away from where we live in any direction. And again, whether you live in a small, rural village or a booming, congested city, most people have a literal buffet of church choices ..... or yet better, perhaps I should say "hospital choices". According to the passage of Scripture above, Christ likened his existence (and that of his followers) to that of a medical doctor. Although we read of very few physicians in the Bible, (Luke being one of them), it would seem that Jesus would have a pretty good grasp on how to heal a physically sick body since, as God, he was the one who created human bodies in the first place. A person doesn't have to read very far into the New Testament at all before they see the Son of God healing people from all sorts of physical abnormalities, ailments, and disabilities. And yet, as important and as sought after as the healing of our physical bodies is, Jesus indicates in his red words that the greatest healing that can be sought after is that of a spiritual nature. It's one thing to heal the physical hurts of a broken body that can lead to a better existence on this side of Heaven. It's an entirely different thing to heal the unseen hurts of a spiritual body that can lead to an eternal existence on the other side of Heaven.
All that being said, it would seem that a fairly accurate litmus test for churches in determining how well they are operating as a "hospital" would be the following simple statement ...... "How many sick people are in your church on a regular basis?" I'm not talking about those folks with a cast on their arm or a bandage around their head, nor am I speaking about those who come into church in a wheel chair or on a walker. I mean how many people seek out your church when their lives are as low as they have ever been? How many want to turn on their emergency lights on their vehicle and get to your church as quickly as possible when they find themselves in the middle of major life trauma? Is your church the first place people think about when their marriage is on the rocks, when their finances are bottoming out, when their addictions have become relentless, when they have endless struggle with homosexuality or heterosexuality, when they can feel nothing but darkness because of mental issues and struggles ...... when they feel lost, when they feel shame, when they feel abandoned, when they feel abused, when they feel unnecessary, when they feel unacceptable, when they feel like a burden, when they feel confused, when they feel lonely, when they feel heartache, when they feel disappointed, when they feel like a failure or simply when they feel let down by God and anyone else who ever claimed they loved and cared about them? When people in your community feel all those emotions and a million more, in other words, when they feel sick, do they feel they can seek out help in your church (hospital)?
In far too many cases the answer for many churches around the world will be "No". You see we have been conditioned in today's modern church to believe that we are only acceptable to associate with God and his people once we are healed from our sicknesses, whatever they may be. We have been conditioned to say to a prospective church member something along the following line ..... "We would love to have you. We really would. As soon as you get your life straightened out we will have a seat waiting on you. For you see, the rest of us here in this church have it figured out. We are healed. We aren't wounded any longer and we are afraid that if you bring your sickness in here that someone might become infected with it also. We sorta like to keep it quarantined around here. You know, sanitized. We like things how we like it and if we allow you to come in here with all your baggage then it just might change how we do business. And frankly, we like how we do business. We would prefer not to have to hold your hand as you walk through situations that could possibly become messy. We would rather not get involved. We would just as soon not have to get our hands dirty. So, again, we love you, we really do. And yes, you are welcomed here ..... as soon as you aren't sick any longer. Come back when you are better and you will find arms opened wide."
According to Jesus, His church is the place people should run to when they are at their sickest. His church is the place people should run to when they are at their lowest. His church is the place people should run to when they are hanging on by a thread. His church is the place people should run to when they feel they have no where else to go. His church is the place people should run to when they are sick and need healing. The Bible says that Jesus came to "seek and to save that which is lost". (Luke 19:10) As churches, are we happy and content to house only those that are well and found? Or, as hospitals, are we open and welcoming to those who are sick and lost? The Apostle Paul wrote that we have "all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". (Romans 3:23) I'm afraid many of us have developed amnesia and forgotten that we were once sick too ..... which of course, makes us just as sick as anyone else in the hospital.