A Hospital For Sinners

What is a social club? Wikipedia defines it as “a group of people or the place where they meet, generally formed around a common interest, occupation or activity.”

There are many different kinds of social clubs, some centred around golf, or art, or sailing, etc… In order to become a member of that club you must first prove that you are worthy to be part of the club. In one club, you can only become a member if one current member sponsors you and another is willing to second that application, only then you can be considered. For others lineage or money are the keys to getting in. All clubs have some standards or expectations you must meet in order to join.’ At some, dress codes are enforced, exclusive and particular language is used, and certain lifestyles are expected. In the most exclusive of clubs ‘if you need to ask what they are, don’t bother…’

To what extent have we let the local church come to resemble a local social club?

How did Jesus treat those who came to him? Did Jesus ever turn certain types of people away?

Certainly, if there is some sort of destructive behaviour going on (Christian theology calls this sin), it may need challenging, but when? Before or after the individual are welcomed? When others are at a different place of the road of life to us, are we willing to let God work at His own pace? Or do we insist that all should be in the same place as us?

When we try to keep out those who are not of ‘like-mind’ the church has become a club, and this makes me so sad. If we really believe Christ died for all, then all are welcome.

It’s hard inviting someone to a church that will require and entire cultural change in order to be accepted. Churches have so many unspoken rules (and written ones) that often visitors feel discouraged and give up.  It seems to me that Jesus had very little time for the religious rulers of his day (The Pharisees) and their obsession with keeping their faith (Judaism) pure. Jesus’ radically inclusive nature led to him eating with prostitutes, tax collectors and others the bible simply labels ‘sinners’. In fact, he seems to do it so often that he developed quite a reputation, being labelled ‘a friend of sinners, a glutton and a drunkard’. Matthew 11:19

‘God forbid’ people should speak of us in those terms!

We are not a social club for saints, we are a hospital for sinners. We are a church striving to live like Jesus and follow him, and in that light, all are welcome.

Grace and peace
Charlie Ingram