A hospital can be a very dangerous place to a sick person. The very place where expert help is available to bring care and healing is also capable of causing greater sickness and even death. This is also true in the church. The church should be the one place you can visit and receive the help you need spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. It should be, but often it’s not. This healing oasis can become a hurting ogre if the church is unhealthy.

Perhaps an illustration will help. Hospitals are dangerous because a deadly microscopic infection lurks at every turn. It’s called staph infection and it is a constant battle to prevent an outbreak in every hospital. Staph is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. Twenty-five percent of people carry it and don’t even know it. It often gets a foothold with a scratch—a small wound, nothing serious—that gets infected. It can range from a simple boil to a flesh-eating infection. The difference is the strength of the infection, how deep it goes, and how fast it spreads. People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to this infection.

Staph usually starts with an area of tenderness, swelling, and redness. It sometimes begins with an open wound, and at other times it gets inside the body without a sign of where it came from. The usual treatment requires antibiotics, but sometimes the infection must be surgically removed. Staph is highly contagious.

Yet staph infections can be easily prevented if we simply exercise some elementary precautions. If you have a cut or break in the skin, wash it with soap and water, keep it clean and dry, and cover it. That is a rather easy solution in the prevention of an infection that has a potential to kill you. Deal with the wound immediately, and it will not be an issue.

So, what does that have to do with the church being a hospital? All of us are familiar with staph infections in the physical realm, but there is also a staph infection in the spiritual realm. It is not new. It is as old as humanity and one that has the potential of turning a healing place into a killing field if it is not dealt with thoroughly in each of our lives. It is highly infectious, deadly, and must be dealt with if any of us hope to help someone else find healing in Jesus Chris

This spiritual staph is called unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is a spiritual bacteria that infects our soul and ultimately affects our spirit and body. It develops when we are wounded, offended, or hurt, and we don’t clean and deal with the wound immediately. It occurs when someone or something wounds, hurts, offends, or disappoints us. It moves quickly from a surface issue to a heart issue if the proper care is not applied. It is also highly contagious when the symptoms of anger, bitterness, sarcasm, impatience, rage, fear, insecurity, and control start to seep out of the wounds in our soul and come in contact with others who have weak or non-functioning immune systems (spiritually speaking).

The only remedy for unforgiveness is to forgive. That’s the only cure! You can’t be healer of souls if your own soul is deathly sick. We are all wounded healers but to be effective and not destroy others, we must first seek health. Unforgiveness is an infection the church must deal with on an individual basis. Otherwise, the infection lurks in every crack and crevice of our soul and its deadly poison always infects others. Instead of healers we have the potential of becoming killers.

 If we, who know Christ and have received a full pardon for our sins (total forgiveness), are unable to forgive, how can we require others to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do? How can we stamp out this spiritual staph when we ourselves are the carriers of this deadly infection? The answer—we can’t unless we are willing to forgive.