Should the church operate more as the voice of morality in society, or as a hospital for the wounded?
— Jason Neil Soto (@JasonNeilSoto) September 21, 2013
I responded to him saying that those were not mutually exclusive. The point of his question, however, was from the perspective of church programming and focus. After much thought, I have two answers to this question: both, and neither.
As members of Christ's body, we are called to be a standard for the world around us. Many times, that standard has a voice, which ideally, would not only broadcast our moral code, but explain its basis. But it is hard, and perhaps, quite naive, to dictate our moral code to those who have no real understanding of our moral compass. That was a big part of the problem with the Pharisees, they were so caught up in the rules, that the rules lost their meaning. Following the law became ritualistic and legalistic for many, instead of being a reflection of a heart totally devoted to God. (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 23:28)
Similarly, as a standard, serving others should be a priority. The "fast" that we choose, the way we show our dedication to our God, is serving the least of these: the widow the orphan, the neediest in our society. It is sitting with the sinner, binding up the brokenhearted, and freedom for the captive. It is praying for the broken, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, weeping with those who mourn. These are the ones that we are called to serve. (Isaiah 58:6-9, Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 10:40-42, Matthew 25:31-46.) In addition, all the "sick" in our society should be welcomed within the Church, and should be able to seek God for hope and healing, while their wounds are tended by its members.
The Church is a community before it is a corporation. In its most basic form, the Church was a gathering place for believers. They would fellowship with each other, build each other up, hold each other accountable, and grow together (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Galatians 6:1-2, James 5:16, Hebrews 10:25). The first church, in Acts 2, went as far as to live together! The point is, the Church was a community dedicated to the well-being of each of its members (1 Peter 2:1-5). Without this nourishment and development of the individual within the corporate setting, the Church can function neither as a voice of morality nor as a hospital for the wounded.
Thus as the Church, our primary focus should be our growth as followers of Christ, and in so doing inviting others into membership of Christ's body. If we focus on either of these two (voice or hospital), without being built on the aforementioned growth, we run the risk of not being able to do any of these three things. I believe that it is only through maturing as we walk with Jesus that we can be most effective as a voice, or as a hospital.
Why? Because it is in the heart and the nature of the healthy, mature believer to be the light and the standard, and to heal the wounded of our society (Romans 12:9-21, Colossians 1:9-11). And without this maturity, or at least, a place to mature, we run the risk of being a Pharisaical voice, dictating stringent rules to all around us, or a hospital where the staff are so sick that they are infecting the patients. The Church should be a place that people look to as a standard, and a place for broken people to come to be made whole, not because of what we do, but because Jesus is there.
These are my personal views on this question. What are your thoughts on this? I'm very interested in hearing which of the four possible answers to this question you'd choose.
Be blessed and shine from the heart!