by Pastor Joshua Pfeiffer
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Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31,32).
I don’t know too many people who like going to the doctor. It’s certainly not at the top of my list of favourite activities. A part of it is simply the rigmarole associated with finding the time, booking, waiting, following up, etc. However, there are deeper dynamics at work as well. We may sense that going to the doctor is to admit an aspect of our weakness and frailty we’d prefer to ignore. We may fear the possibilities of what the doctor will find. We may not want to hear and act on the necessary lifestyle or dietary changes required. All of this is, of course, somewhat silly because doctors are there to help us and bring healing. Yet this is how it often is for us as human beings.
Jesus uses the image of a sick person and a physician to describe his own reason for coming. When Jesus was challenged as to why he was eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, he responded with the verse above, showing these are precisely the people for whom he came. We don’t need to achieve a certain level of spiritual health – righteousness – to become acceptable for Jesus, but rather, it’s in coming to terms with our own spiritual sickness – sin – that we’re prepared to encounter him and receive his gift of the healing of forgiveness.
Meditation on this imagery has led many people to say that the church should be something like a hospital for sinners. There is something very true about this. Yet, we also need to notice that when Jesus calls these ‘sick’ into his ‘hospital’ of the church, he calls them to repentance. In other words, the spiritual sickness of sin is not simply something we happen to catch through no fault of our own, but instead, it is that we are guilty and are called to turn away. To go back to the earlier analogy, Jesus’ call to repentance means not only coming to the spiritual doctor for healing but turning toward the new lifestyle he lays out for us.
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you sent your Son for sinners like me. Help me never hide away from my spiritual sickness but come to Christ for the healing he brings. By your Spirit, grant me true repentance and faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.