And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
— Luke 5:31–32
“Jesus is the physician and the church is the hospital.” On Sunday, Casey Coats concisely taught in no uncertain terms that everyone, no matter their state of sin or sickness, has a place in the church. Christ’s hospital was established for the healing of all of God’s people.
As a daughter and mother who has had loved ones in the hospital, and as a retired psychologist who has worked in several hospital settings, that metaphor really resonated with me. I have felt terror and devastation in hospitals, as when our 18 month old son needed a CT scan to rule out a brain tumor, when our 5 1/2 year old son needed emergency surgery, and when we had to remove my mother from life support. As a medical provider, I’ve worked with patients and their families at times of great stress and chaos. Many of my patients suffered from severe cognitive and emotional issues and faced crucial life transitions and decisions.
I thought of these experiences Sunday as I contemplated people dealing with the challenges of real life, the shame or trauma of a difficult past, or fear and anxiety as they face an uncertain future. Jesus taught that these sick people are in need of a physician. And if they need a physician, they need a hospital, a place to heal. Jesus established this hospital — he called it the church.
Hospitals are never run exclusively by the medical director. Every hospital needs a staff. Hospitals are staffed by countless folks, dealing with a wide range of administrative services, as well as delivering all types of patient care. Though we’ve probably all bumped into a grumpy intake person or overburdened nurse that is short with us, much more than that I hope we all have found most hospital personnel to be kind, compassionate, wanting to help us at our time of need. I’ve been impacted by the kindness of nurses that I’ve known for only a few hours, and I’ve been forever moved by a doctor who cried with my family before we withdrew my mom’s life-sustaining oxygen. I hope I have been a calming force for those who were under my care. Hospital personnel in all roles know their mission: healing. They don’t deliver the healing directly, but they create the environments in which treatments work. Healing happens, and people see that Jesus is real when they receive love, dignity, compassion and hope, when their big and small needs are met, or when someone will just sit with them and cry. This is what happens in the church when we are at our best, when we realize and fulfill our calling to use our gifts, whatever they are, to staff Christ’s hospital, and bring health and wholeness to God’s beloved. What is your role in Christ’s hospital?