How are Christian churches like hospitals? With help from James, Eugene Peterson offers an answer

Introduction to the book of James, by Eugene Peterson (The Message)

"When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business—and dishonest business at that.

"Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church.

"So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with.

"The letter of James shows one of the church’s early leaders skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care. Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential. Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that; it is skill in living. For, what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it? What good is an intention if we can’t sustain it?

"According to church traditions, James carried the nickname of “Old Camel Knees” because of thick calluses built up on his knees from many years of determined prayer. Prayer is foundational to wisdom. The prayer is always foundational to the wisdom."

As usual, Peterson presents a thoughtful, caring approach and analysis. But as churches and believers mature, we know there is so much more! The 'hospital' will always be an important wing of the church, but as people heal and grow, they will learn to fly. And hopefully, become part of the true purpose of Christ's Church on earth, That's a whole other story that has already been writtenthe rest of the Bible.