Post by Pastor Tim – I still remember the day when my grandmother collapsed on the floor of our dining room. If it wasn’t for the quick intervention of my brother, she would have died that day, a whole ten years before the Lord actually did take her to be with Him. After we rushed to the hospital, we were greeted there by our pastor. He already had a full day of preaching and presiding over church events, and yet he “dropped everything” to be with our family in the hospital.
My family still remembers and is thankful for his visit that day, and yet I can’t help but think that something was missing. Now, having had the benefit of many pastoral visits of my own, I understand what was missing a little better. Our pastor provided us with his care and concern, but in doing this he failed to provide us with Christ’s care and concern. I’m not sure of the reason . . . maybe it was too uncomfortable, maybe it slipped his mind, or maybe he felt like we were strong enough Christians already . . . but for whatever reason his visit didn’t point us to Christ. Author Amy Sherman says,
It (visitation) mustn’t be limited to providing them merely with commodities. We are to share our own lives, and invite them to taste of Christ’s life.
Truthfully, visiting the imprisoned or the sick is uncomfortable, and it is even more uncomfortable to inquire about their spiritual state. But a visitation without even a mention of Jesus doesn’t reflect Christ to those who are in need of him most. John Wesley, while understanding the importance of one’s physical needs said,
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.
Another pastor that I know exemplified this well. My father had heart surgery a few years ago, and this pastor visited my dad in the hospital. He was concerned about my father’s physical state, but he was actually even more concerned about my father’s spiritual state. He was bold enough to directly ask my father about his relationship with Jesus, and if my dad was confident of where he would spend eternity.
Thankfully, my father could (and still can) answer that question, and yet my parents were thankful for that pastor’s boldness and care. Ultimately, his visit challenged my parents to examine their own lives and take their discipleship even more seriously than they did before. This pastor understood that visitation shouldn’t be done solely out of care and concern, but rather to reflect the care and concern of God as his ambassador. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20,
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.