Let’s say you had a deadly illness of some sort, but didn’t know it. You didn’t feel well, you were tired all the time and so finally, after some time, you go to your doctor. He orders some tests to try and determine what’s wrong with you. After some weeks you go back for a follow-up appointment and you expect the doctor to tell you the problem, to tell you the truth. Sometimes there are people who don’t want the doctor to tell the truth, they’d rather be in the dark and they deceive themselves into thinking everything is okay when it isn’t. But if the doctor is a good doctor who takes his oath seriously, he’ll tell the truth. In fact, we could say that it would be the most loving thing for a doctor to do.
The church has sometimes been described not as a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. That’s actually a very old picture that comes from our Saviour himself. In Mark 2:17, the Lord Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Lord Jesus is a doctor and the church is a sort of hospital. In this hospital the truth must be told. The truth must be told about sinners and their condition. The truth also has to be told about God and how he regards sin and what he is going to do about sin and sinners. Though there will always be those inside and outside the church who don’t want to hear this truth, love compels us to speak clearly and plainly about God’s justice.
Think of Proverbs 27:6. The NIV has “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Older translations had something like, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Friends speak the truth in love, even when it hurts in the short-term. Friends care and so will tell you what you need to hear. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. And this is all the more true when we speak about God’s justice. So, this afternoon, we want to consider what the Bible says about this. When we speak with unbelievers or even when we speak with one another or with our children, we have to be clear that God is just and that he administers justice. To be open about that truth is loving because it exposes a serious problem and ultimately drives us to a comforting solution. Following the teachings of Scripture, that’s where the Catechism ultimately wants to bring us too.