The Unhealthy Church: Sickness, Death, and Resurrection

Suppose your body is feeling weak and tired a lot. Maybe there’s some nausea and some increased coughing too. Most likely, you take a day or two off of work and stay home resting. It’s likely just a stomach virus or flu bug that will pass and in a few days your body will feel strong and healthy again. But let’s suppose your body continues to weaken, the nausea persists and you even begin to notice some blood in your cough. Well, you may not have any idea of what’s wrong but one thing you know is that there’s something more going on than just a seasonal virus. What do you do? Should you do nothing or should you go see your doctor?

I’m guessing that we both agree on going to see the doctor. So let’s suppose that after seeing your doctor and maybe another, you receive the diagnosis. It’s cancer! Now what do you do? Your body is ill. Something’s wrong. You know the prognosis. If you aggressively treat the cancer, there’s a chance for beating the cancer…going into remission or even being cured so that you can continue on living a healthy life. But if you do nothing…

The Body I Am Speaking Of…

However, the body I am speaking of is not your physical body. It’s the local body of Christ you belong too. Your church.

Church’s a living organisms made up of people living the gospel way of life together in both organic and organized ways. One of the metaphor’s the Bible uses to describe the church is body which you probably already know. Sometimes this body gets sick. Sometimes it’s just a seasonal virus that will pass with a little rest. Sometimes the sickness is more serious, even cancerous. So what will you do?

In my experience, it’s easier to do nothing…to pretend that if the illness is ignored long enough, it will disappear. That rarely, if ever, works. Yet treating the illness, just like any illness of the human body, can be a difficult process. Does anyone believe chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery is easy to endure? It’s also easy to not worry about whatever illness affects the church body if the church is something you just attend on Sunday’s.

Yet when there is a serious illness in the church, whatever it may be, failing to treat it is fatal. Sometimes, even when attempting to address the problem(s), it’s fatal. In the church, the problems always involve people. It’s easy to point fingers, throw people under the proverbial bus, and cast blame but that likely only throws salt into an open wound. So…

And The Difficult Decision Is…

Seventeen years ago, my father was dying with cancer. He had been sick for a few months but shortly after Thanksgiving of 1996 he was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a very aggressive and fatal form of cancer that began in the duct of the pancreas. He could have chosen to fight the cancer with chemotherapy and radiation but the prognosis would still have been the same. The only difference is that he would have remained in a Chicago hospital, making it difficult for my mother and the rest of the family to see him. So he elected to come home, knowing the outcome. On January 28, 1997, my dad peacefully passed from this life. But he didn’t die! My dad elected not to pursue any treatment in attempt to prolong his life because he knew who he believed in and was convinced that his Savior, Jesus Christ, was able to guard him until that day (cf. 1 Tim 1:12).

Sometimes the body passed on. Eventually all bodies pass on. This is true for local churches just as much as it is for the human body. There isn’t any easy answer for knowing when to fight the illness and when to let the body pass. I wish there was but there isn’t. It hurts because death always comes with a sting. The comfort is that in Jesus Christ, there is the hope of the resurrection!

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  — 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

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