Who is the Church for..?

During the time of Pope Callistus, who was Pope for five years from 217 until 222, there was a great debate in the Christian Church about the forgiveness of sin.  Some people believed, rather restrictively, that sins could only be forgiven at Baptism, and idealistically that people really ought to abstain from sin and lead as perfect a life as possible.  Consequently, many people delayed their baptism until they approached death!  Pope Callistus took a different and more pragmatic view, and he taught that despite human fallen nature - with due repentance - people could have their sins forgiven, even after Baptism.  The Church was thus divided into two groups: one which saw the Church as a group of saints in constant conflict with the world, and another which saw the Church as a school for sinners that was there to help mankind work out its salvation; in other words, people needed encouragement precisely because they were not yet saints.

In the end, the view of Callistus thankfully triumphed; and eventually that triumph was echoed in the creeds where we claim belief in the forgiveness of our sins.  We may aspire to be saints, and some may achieve it, but at heart we know that we are really in the company of sinners.   Living in the light of Jesus’ kingdom can be demanding and challenging, but we can feel encouraged that Jesus enjoyed having a meal with sinners, and he recognised that it was their need to have a physician.  Christ does not place upon our shoulders burdens that we cannot bear, and we have to learn patience as his grace gradually gets us into shape.