by Tim Hall
What happens to Christians who are no longer able to gather with the saints?
The conversation took place many years ago, but I remember it vividly. A well-known preacher was in town to conduct a gospel meeting. As I gave him a tour of some of the sights of our area one morning, I was surprised at how he confided in me.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as he spoke of health afflictions that had beset his family. For many years friends were constantly dropping by. Now, hardly anyone even called. Age and infirmity had separated him from most of those who had once been close.
I’ve seen it on other occasions. Those who enjoy good health are welcomed into the mainstream of social activities. When limitations make it difficult to get out, everyone seems affected. Isolation makes the burden of physical afflictions even more painful.
A scene from long ago is recorded in Nehemiah 8. A remnant of God’s people had returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity and were gathered safely behind newly-rebuilt city walls. Ezra led the assembly in reading the law of God, assisted by several Levites.
As the reading continued, sobbing was heard, “for all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law” (Nehemiah 8:9, NKJV). Ezra urged them not to cry, “… for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
How unfortunate that not all could be present to hear Ezra’s exhortation on joy. As in any community, some were unable to meet due to age, infirmities, illnesses, etc. But these were not forgotten on that occasion. Ezra instructed them to “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared” (Nehemiah 8:10). No one was to be left out. Spread the joy to all, they were told.
God still teaches that all need encouragement, whether ambulatory or not. To whom did the Son of Man grant admission to the “kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”? Two criteria mentioned were “… I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:31,36).
If people cannot come to our assemblies, must they be forgotten? Must the old adage that says “Out of sight, out of mind” describe the Lord’s church?
Spending time with an aged friend in a nursing home may not be a popular pastime. We can give many reasons for not paying a visit to someone no longer able to be out. But again we must ask the piercing question: Whom do we serve?
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
by Tim Hall