Part VII of our series on Visiting and Remembering
In Friday’s post, we learned that being abased for Christ’s sake – by visiting the poor, the prisoners, the sick, the orphans and the widows – is cause for rejoicing.
John Wesley’s instruction was helpful there, but it’s important to remember that physical care isn’t the only part of the lives of others in which God intends for us to mirror his love.
Wesley says that caring for people’s bodies is how we earn people’s trust to be able to talk about their souls as well:
These little labours of love will pave your way to things of greater importance. Having shown that you have a regard for their bodies, you may proceed to inquire concerning their souls.
And here you have a large field before you; you have scope for exercising all the talents which God has given you. May you not begin with asking, “Have you ever considered, that God governs the world;—that his providence is over all, and over you in particular?—Does any thing then befall you without his knowledge,—or without his designing it for your good? He knows all you suffer; he knows all your pains; he sees all your wants. He sees not only your affliction in general, but every particular circumstance of it. Is he not looking down from heaven, and disposing all these things for your profit?
You may then inquire, whether he is acquainted with the general principles of religion. And afterwards, lovingly and gently examine, whether his life has been agreeable thereto: whether he has been an outward, barefaced sinner, or has had a form of religion.
See next, whether he knows anything of the power; of worshipping God “in spirit and in truth.” If he does not, endeavour to explain to him, “without holiness no man shall see the Lord”; and “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” When he begins to understand the nature of holiness, and the necessity of the new birth, then you may press upon him “repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We can follow up our visit with books and articles that allow people to go deeper into spiritual matters. Wesley says:
When you find any of them begin to fear God, it will proper to give them, one after another, some plain tracts… At the next visit you may inquire, what they have read—what they remember—and what they understand. And then will be the time to enforce what they understand, and, if possible, impress it on their hearts.
So let me encourage you, dear reader, to build your own file of books and website links and magazine articles that helped you better understand the Christian faith. Most importantly, share passages of the Bible – ideally from memory – and then follow up by showing them where it is in the Bible. You can say, “There’s a story in the Bible that comes to mind for me in this situation. May I share it?”That way you’re sharing God’s Word with them rather than your own.
Key reminder, though: Books, magazines, and Bible verses are great. But don’t forget to invoke God’s presence through prayer during your visit! You can—and should—lead the one you visit to cry out for God’s visitation and friendship-love.
You minister through your own eyes and hands but always through God’s care and in his name, and always according to his purposes.