Church is a hospital for the sick, not a gathering place for the good.
MARCH 6, 2023
Church is a hospital for the sick, not a gathering place for the good. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew, executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches that God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.
Thank you Matthew. We’re looking at a book I wrote. I’m going to keep doing this until I get it right. It just recently came out. It’s called Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. And frankly, I’m not selling books. I don’t get anything for these. The money that comes from it, if there is any, goes into the ministry. So, even if you don’t like the book, buy it and you can help out Key Life. But whenever I do this, we take some time to look at some of the themes in the book that I wrote. By the way, I hope you had a great week-end and I hope that your pastor’s sermon was as good as my pastor’s sermon. Okay, we’ll get into theme, we’re talking about repentance. Life is hard and then you repent. And repentance is different than what you think, and we’re gonna get into that. But first, let’s pray. Father, bring us to repentance, not just here and there, but give us the gift of a life of repentance, of agreeing with you and walking with you and following you. Father, you know everybody who’s listening to this broadcast and you know the hard places and the soft ones, the laughter in the tears. We’re thankful that you’re sovereign and that you’re good and that all of that is a part of your plan for our benefit. That’s hard to remember sometimes. So remind us Father of your love. And then Father, as always, we pray for the one who teaches on this broadcast. Forgive him his sins cause they are many. We would see Jesus and Him only, and we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Studies are being done all the time and they reveal some things that are not very pretty. You would expect that the people in the church, that would be the resident place of the good people. And the people who are not in the church, that would be the resident place of the bad people. And the object of the church filled with good people is to get the bad people to change, to become good people and to become a part of the church. And then the sociologists do their studies and it’s devastating cause you find out that divorce is going on in the church as much as it is in the world. And there’s just as much cheating on income taxes there as in the world. And then you begin to realize something’s wrong here. Now, I don’t know about you, but when those studies came out and I was a pastor, I would decide, I’ve gotta preach some sermons. We’ve got to do something about all of this. And so, I preached those sermons too, but my reaction, especially after a whole lot of years seeing that my sermons had very little, if any effect had changed anybody. Now, I understand better that the church is an organization in the world where the qualification for membership properly understood is a lack of qualification. I’ve come to see that the church is a hospital for sick people. It is not a gathering place for wonderful, good, nice, and pure people. But while the heart of this seems new, it is really old. A serious problem with anthropology and theology, in the former, it’s the view that people are good and are getting better, and in the latter case that guilt and shame can be either ignored, marginalized, or discounted as outdated concepts or with a bit of discipline and hard work, it can be fixed. Listen, a fallen world is a lot worse than you think it is. A very a long time. I came to the realization that how we understand human nature determines how we write theology, do politics, study philosophy, understand sociology, and live life. Not only that, I discovered that any freedom I’ve experienced as a Christian only came when I understood and lamented the very pretty picture Scripture gives of human nature in general and my human nature in particular. I finally and reluctantly did something about the problem and noticed that my prison doors were unlocked. Doing something about it, by the way, is very different from what you might think. While repentance and lament aren’t the same, they are sisters and they share the pathos, the honesty, and the pain connected to God. While lament can cover a number of areas, and in the book that I wrote, illustrations, repentance is always lament. They also share the anger and yes, even the laughter. I don’t want to belabor the point, but frankly, if we don’t understand Biblical lament and its relationship to repentance, we’ll never get to the laughter that’s a part of it. A number of years ago, I became familiar with the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. That’s a Lutheran religious order founded by Basilea Schlink in Darmstadt, Germany. In 1961, the Sisterhood opened a guest house in Jerusalem for Holocaust survivors. Their efforts were, and this was what they said, works of repentance for Germany’s third Reich. Mother Basilea set forth her ideas in a book that was simply titled Repentance: The Joy Filled Life. I had that book in my library for years. A friend of mine had given it to me because I had become a part of a small group of Christians that had a relationship with the Sisters of Mary. And Mother Basilea was gone by then, but her book was touted as a very important book I ought to read. And so, I put it on the bookshelves in my library and I made a promise to myself that I was going to get to it one of these days, but I never did. Every time I walked by that book and saw it on my bookshelf, Repentance, I thought, Hmm, I ain’t doing that. I’ve got other things, I’ll get to that one of these days, but I’m not going to get to it now. You know what my problem was? Cause I believed something about repentance that wasn’t true and I thought I couldn’t do it. I had taught, and you’ve heard people teach this too, that forgiveness is what you ask for when you spill milk, but repentance is when you get a mop and clean up the milk, go get another bottle and give that to the person you were going to give the first one to. Now, that’s repentance. Now, I can do the forgiveness thing, that’s not a problem for me. I have learned, and if you’re as messed up as I am, you do it a lot. I ask God and friends and family members often for forgiveness, but to be fixed, which was how they defined repentance, that was not so easy. And so, when I looked at that book and my bookshelves, I thought, mm-mm. I’m not going there. I can get forgiveness, but I can’t do the change. I’m just not good enough to do the change. Subsequent to that time, I’ve discovered some things about repentance, that have changed my life, and I want you to listen carefully. It changed the way I look at the world and the way I look at myself. Let’s get to the bad news first. You and I are not good people and nobody we know is good people either, despite the bad English and grammar. The followers of the old and new god’s, old and new beliefs and old and new ways have a point of agreement. As Trueman said about the enlightenment, it is that we are getting better and better every day in every way. And the truth is that’s not happening at all. I mentioned Brant Hansen’s book about anger. We interviewed him recently, it was good. And I agreed with almost everything he wrote in that book. And I love him because he says things that most other people won’t say, but he wrote a book and it was titled The Truth About Us: The Very Good News About How Very Bad We Are. And frankly, it’s the best book I’ve ever read on self-righteousness. And I’m going to talk to you a little bit about it tomorrow, but in that book, Brant Hansen talks about how you have to start from the realization that everything you thought about yourself was wrong. And a definition of repentance isn’t change, it’s agreeing with God about his assessment. You think about that, Amen.
Life is hard and then you repent. Thanks Steve. That was Steve Brown resuming our tour of the Biblical basis of his latest book, Laughter and Lament. And of course, we’ll really take a deep dive into this starting tomorrow. Hope you’ll join us for that. Well, to borrow the words from the great 20th century poet philosopher B.B. King, the thrill is gone. But when it comes to orthodoxy, that doesn’t have to be the case. At least that’s the case that Trevon Wax makes in his latest book, The Thrill of Orthodoxy. We recently talked Trevin on Steve Brown Etc and it was a fascinating conversation, Trevin posits that not only is orthodoxy thrilling, but that heresy is downright boring. Yeah, it’s good stuff. Check it out for yourself by calling us now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You give us your address and we’ll send you that show on CD, for free. You can also e-mail [email protected] and ask for that CD. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the CD featuring Trevin Wax. And finally, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or join the growing number of folks who give safely and securely through text. It’s easy, just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.