All the sick are not in hospitals.
Many, if not most of them, are in their homes.
It’s important for us to remember this when we think of visiting the sick. A person may be sick at home, whether by reason of old age or some persistent disease, and hardly anyone will come to visit him. Yet, if he is hospitalized for a time, the minister comes to visit, the elders, members of the church, friends, and relatives all flock down to see him. The sick must be visited wherever they are.
This brings up two important considerations related to visiting the sick. First, they must be visited. Secondly, they must be visited properly.
Jesus laid great stress upon visiting the sick. In fact, in the well known passage, Matt. 25:31-46, in which He speaks of Himself as Judge dividing the nations as one who separates the sheep from the goats, Jesus points out that one of the considerations that He will make is whether we have visited the sick.
The sheep will be placed at His right hand, and He will say to them, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” “I was sick, and ye visited me.” The goats will complain and ask, “Lord, when saw we thee sick and did not minister unto thee? To this Jesus’ reply is clear, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
Do you understand what Jesus is saying?
Jesus identifies Himself with His people. The bond that unites Christ and His own is love! The Father gave them to Him in love, Eph. 1:4. Christ died for them in love,John 15:13. In love, Christ sends the gospel to them and calls them unto Himself, Matt. 11:28. That bond is so close that Christ lives His life in His own. Whatever happens to His people actually happens to Christ. Hence, I was sick and ye visited me.
This applies especially to “the least of these.” Who are they? Not the leaders of the church. Not the businessmen and successful. Not the rich who easily gather friends about them. Rather, the little people that do not seem to count. They are the children of God who have to struggle to make a living. They don’t seem to possess many talents. They are the lonely and easily neglected. They, of all Christians, need visits. When they are afflicted Christ suffers in them as well and loves them as well. When we visit them, we remember Christ in them.
Do we do this?
Once we decide to visit the sick, lonely, or sorrowing, the next thing we must remember is to visit them properly. Some people mean well with their visits, but they are miserable comforters. They seem to make the sick person worse off with their presence. Shame on us, if that should be said of us.
How should we visit the sick?
If we keep in mind that Christ is in His people when we visit them, this will influence our visit. This will help us avoid simply making a social visit; we will also come with the Word of God.
Job had some visitors. They spoke a great deal about God and His dealing with Job. They, however, came with partial and distorted words. They pointed to Job’s sickness and said, “See, God is afflicting you because you have done something terrible.” The Pharisees came with that kind of approach; you are bad, and God is getting even with you. Sad to say, but some would-be people of God try the same thing today. They visit the sick and spend all their time trying to find some sin so that they can point an accusing finger and say, “Ha, there you have it; you are in this wretched condition because of such a sin.”
True, we must not overlook sin. Just as evil is the other extreme by the “positive thinkers” of our days. Their syrupy “Smile, God loves you” approach is just as deceitful. No, we must recognize sin. As children of God we admit that our sins are the deepest cause of all our misery. Sometimes we have to deal honestly with certain sins upon our sick-beds. God speaks to us this way. Yet, sick visiting is not a time of castigation; but it is a time of healing in God’s mercy. Christ would have us visit His own, in whom He dwells in love, by showing to them the depths of His forgiving love at Calvary.
Forgiveness must be the theme of our visits.
In forgiveness, we do not feel the heavy .weight of God’s wrath, but we experience the strengthening of faith in the school of affliction. Then, and only then can we assure our sick friends that “It was good for me to be afflicted.”
Still more, nothing speaks more loftily of love and joy than to show kindness to the sick and needy. Be sure you seal your expression of love by deeds of kindness. If a mother is sick, bring a meal to the family. If father is out of work, lend a helping hand.
Jesus also said, “I was hungry and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye visited me; naked, and ye clothed me; I was in prison and ye came unto me.”
By such visiting, we show in word and deed that we love one another.
This we do unto Christ, who first loved us