Caring For the Sick
"Comfort, comfort my people." (Isaiah 40:1)
"Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father Of compassion
and the God of all comfort in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those
in any trouble with the comfort that we have received from God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4)
Caring for the sick is regarded as a regular and important ingredient of pastoral care.
All Christians are called to visit the sick (Matt. 4:23; Mark 6:13; John 4:46, 11:1-6).
By caring for the ill, Christians express the mercy of God.
Ordained ministry has a special representative role in visiting the sick.
It involves not only encouragement but teaching praying, healing, and consoling
in Christ's name on behalf of the whole community (Matt. 10:1; Luke 9:1-2; Mark 3:13-14).
An unknown third-century Christian wrote that a bedside visit in Christ's name should be:
It is generally expected that the pastor will go promptly to the sick.
- Without deception
- Without covetousness
- Without noise or empty chatter
- Rooted in reverence for God
- Without haughtiness
- Without elegant or well-arranged words of learning
- With the meek and loving spirit of Christ
- Confidently, with prayer and fasting
- By those who have received the gift of healing from God.
-- Recognitions of Clement, Vol. 8, p.59
The pastor who waits to be summonsed may miss significant opportunities to minister.
Calvin thought that sickness was a time of the "greatest need" for pastoral care.
When a person is confined, limited, alone and perhaps demoralized and frightened,
there is a deepening of self-reflection and potential for ministry.
Sometimes the only moral support the dying has is the pastor.
One of the most tragic indictments made against the church is that we forget the sick and dying.
In most cases, the minister's presence is perceived as a blessing.
Form a strictly practical viewpoint; ministers should take infectious and life-threatening diseases seriously.
Risks should be reduced by prudent precautions. Use masks. Wash hands.
Avoid infectious contact when severely fatigued.
Alert the congregation to the importance of their role in notifying the minister
when church members are ill.
A home visit is best preceded by a phone call to set a mutually convenient time.
Let your visits be frequent, but not long
Visit with the person alone to encourage more personal dialogue.
Pray with the person, but to God.
An honest demonstration of concern is more important than theological rhetoric.
Ask if you can read Scripture. Use uplifting passages.
Do not be afraid of silence.
Sometimes to gently hold their hand and smile is more important than anything we say.
Our job is to bring good cheer, warmth, joy and positive emotional energy into the sickroom.
This does not mean we take on a false "Pollyanna-like" personality.
Pastoral care for the unsaved is not radically different than ministering to a member
of the congregation. However, we do have an obligation to "confront" them with the Gospel.