A Hospital for Sinners

A Good Hospital is Built

A wealthy landowner lived on a lavish estate near a small city. From time to time, he would drive into town to talk with friends, visit local shops, and see the local people. He was grieved by the number of sick people he saw on every trip. He would see people short of breath, coughing, children with fevers, crying, and people with muscle and joint pain, limping along the street. And he marveled that there was no hospital to help these people, anywhere in this city.

With great compassion for these people, this man decided to build a hospital with his own funds. Sparing no expense, he built state-of-the-art facilities, purchased the very best equipment, and hired some of the most skilled doctors. He also set up a trust fund, to cover the medical bills for anyone who could not afford to pay.

Once everything was ready, he published pamphlets all over town, letting people know that the hospital was now open. Then he watched to see how many people would come for help.

He rejoiced to see a number of people check themselves into the hospital. The nurses and doctors set to work bandaging wounds, administering medicine, and performing life-saving operations.

But he also marveled at how many sick people kept walking around town, not going to the hospital at all. He could not bear to see them remain so sick, when help was so near at hand. So he sent several of his doctors into town to talk to the people, and to invite them in.

“Hello Sir, would you please come to our clinic?”

“Sorry, your clinic is not comfortable . . . I’d rather be at home, or at the bar, or shopping.”

“Hello Miss, would you please come to our clinic?”

“I’m not interested. There is better clinic down the road. They give me morphine which makes me feel better.”

“Pardon me, would you consider coming to our clinic?”

“No thanks. I’m trying some alternative treatments at home.”

“Why won’t you come receive treatment at our clinic?”

“I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me”

One by one, each of these four people died.

Upon the death of the fourth person, the entire town rose up in fury against this wealthy man. An angry mob formed a thick picket line around the hospital, blocking those who would enter. Amazed, the man walked out of the hospital to confront the crowd. The crowd responded violently, pelting him with insults, rotten vegetables, and cigarette butts. He tried to speak, but they just shouted him down, and would not listen. So sadly, he walked back into the hospital and decided to try another day.

A Public Meeting is Held

A few days later, a new pamphlet was distributed throughout town, announcing that a public meeting would be held, at which this man would gladly answer any questions. He requested that they mail their questions to him ahead of time, so that he could sort the letters, and be sure to respond to questions which were most frequently asked. The place was chosen, the date was set, and nearly everyone in town showed up for the event.

He stepped up to the microphone, and said this:

My dear fellow citizens, I am here today to show you my heart. Over the past days I have been grieved to read many letters which reveal a misunderstanding far greater that I ever could have imagined. As I promised, I will share the most frequently asked questions. I pray that you will be satisfied by my answers, and I hope that my responses will set your minds at ease. Many of you asked the following questions:

  • “Why don’t you make the hospital more comfortable?”
  • “Why don’t you attach shopping mall and a bar to your hospital, to make it more fun?
  • “Why don’t you offer morphine, like that other clinic down the road?”
  • “Why don’t you just tell everyone how to treat themselves at home, and use whatever alternative treatments they prefer?”

The most serious letter I received was this one:

A few weeks ago, we saw your doctors talking to our friends in town. And after they refused to come to your hospital, they died shortly afterwards. We think your doctors must have poisoned them. Even if you didn’t agree with the way they were seeking medical treatment, that still doesn’t give you any right to put them to death. Why did you kill our friends? When they refused to come to your hospital, why did you condemn them to die?

In response to your many questions, I offer the following clarifications:

  1. Good hospitals are focused on healing, not comfort.
    If the hospital was full of recliners and big screen TVs, it would be like a living room in your house; it wouldn’t be a hospital. If it was a shopping mall or a bar, it wouldn’t be a hospital.

  2. Good hospitals are focused on curing disease, not masking symptoms.
    If we just gave you a shot of morphine, you might
    feel healthy for a while, but you would not be healthy. There are some medicines which make you feel sicker than ever while you’re taking them, yet they help cure the underlying illness. The hospital is here to heal you, not just to make you temporarily feel better.

  3. Good hospitals are staffed with experienced doctors, not amateurs.
    If we sent our books and our medicines to every home and let people administer their own treatment, most of them would end up killing themselves by accident. We use powerful medication that must be administered with care, and with great wisdom. It simply would not be safe to allow you to write your own prescriptions.

  4. Your friends died of their illnesses, not from anything we did. 
    We invited people to come to our hospital, because we want to cure them.  But if they are not willing to come to our hospital, it is not possible for us to give them proper treatment.  We do warn people when they are in danger of dying.  But we are not the cause of their death.

Some of the people understood.
Some additional people checked into the hospital.

But others refused to believe this good man, and they plotted against him.
Late at night, a group of them broke into his hospital, and stole many of the books and medications. Over the next several months, they set up competing hospitals all over town.

Competing Hospitals are Built

Each competing hospital was different from the next:

  • Some hospitals were only interested in money, charging top dollar for their services.
  • Many hospitals had caring people who wanted to help, but were improperly trained.
  • There weren’t enough stolen medications to go around, so each competing hospital only got an incomplete selection.
  • In hopes to make the medicine stretch farther, many of the hospitals diluted it, so that they could give it to more people.

These competing hospitals were very popular. Some of them had recliners and big screen TVs. Some of them offered morphine as an option, to help people feel better. Some people went to them because they were a closer drive than the original hospital. Some people went to them because their friends worked there. And some people were even reported to get significantly better.

For some of those who were sick, the diluted medication was just strong enough to help cure them of certain illnesses. For most people, though, the medicine was too diluted, and they died because of insufficient medication.

Meanwhile, the original hospital remained in operation. All who checked in were eventually cured, as long as they faithfully took the prescribed medications. Many lives were saved.

The Orthodox Church is the Good Hospital

The Orthodox Church is the Good Hospital.  It is the original place of healing, founded by Jesus himself.  He did not intend the Church to make us comfortable.  Rather, He created the Church to be a place of true healing.  He did not setup the Church to teach people how to self-administer spiritual “home remedies”.  Instead, He gave us the Church to provide healing in the context of relationships and community.

Catholic, Coptic, and Protestant churches are the competing hospitals. At various points in history, they departed from the Church founded by Christ. They still possess varying amounts of the original “medications” provided to the Church, but often not in full strength. Sometimes these diluted medicines are sufficient to help cure certain illnesses.  But often, sicknesses are left uncured, due to insufficient medication.

Does that mean God is condemning the people in these other churches, punishing them because they won’t go to the right hospital?  Not at all.  These people are dying of their illnesses. They are not dying because of anything God is “doing” to them. God wants them to be healed, so He continually invites them to the original hospital which He founded.

Suppose the Good Physician correctly diagnoses your illnesses, and prescribes seven medications to heal you. Then you go to a pharmacist who only fills two of those prescriptions, and ignores the other five. Is that a good pharmacist? Or a deadly one?

In the Orthodox Church, God has given seven sacraments–medicines–which are prescribed for your healing. Yet most Protestant churches only claim to believe in two sacraments. What about the other five?

Without taking all of your prescribed medications, how will you find healing?

Settle for nothing less than the original hospital, founded by the Great Physician.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
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3 Responses to A Hospital for Sinners

  1. tpkatsa says:

    Well-written and right on point – great analogy!

  2. Wow! This is awesome and an excellent analogy for how the Orthodox (the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic) Church views herself. I pray that many more will come to her for TRUE healing.

    And, for what it’s worth, I agree with Thomas (tpkatsa) for, what I believe is, the first time on this blog. Scary! 🙂

  3. tpkatsa says:

    @itsthesimplelife I actually agree with much of what Deacon Joseph writes. And I would probably agree with much you have to say as well.

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