Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Dilemma of the Church and Chronic Illness

More and more I hear about people disillusioned with the four walls of the church as they know it. Because churches are human run institutions, they are fallible, no doubt. And that really isn’t anyone’s FAULT, per se; however, I think that there needs to be a return to the New Testament way of thinking when it comes the church.

We all know Matthew 25:34-40 by now, about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, caring for the widow and orphan, visiting the sick and imprisoned. I’ve spouted off enough about it in the last 2 months that anyone who reads this blog is probably sick of it. : )

But please bear with me…this is so important. The New Testament church was a brand new thing. People met in their homes. They took collections for the poor. They took care of one another. No one “didn’t have time” to help.

If there is one thing that I think “modern” American churches are lacking, it’s taking care of one another. We have this program and that function; this policy and that office. We have human interpretations of the Bible, which will inevitably lead to controversy. So we go to a different church. And we start all over again.

Last week I was talking with a pastor’s wife about my situation and church experiences (she had asked about them). During the conversation she said, “Okay, I have a question, no two questions. Are YOU comfortable going to visit people in the hospital? And how much is enough?”

After I picked up my jaw, I told her that I cannot safely GO to the hospital and visit sick people, but if I were healthy, it wouldn’t matter if I was comfortable or not (which I would be) I would do it. Jesus never said doing the right thing was comfortable.

And how much is enough? Good question. Unless God heals me this side of heaven, I will always have this disease and always need help. So if the body of Christ cannot help me, who then? Do I go to a nursing home as a 40 year old wife and mother? Does my husband quit his job to be my caregiver? We can’t afford to hire a private caregiver. Most people couldn't.

What about the person who isn't married? Doesn't have a sister or brother to come and help? Whose parents are gone? What about the man who lost his job because of his illness, and has to support his family? What about the person who has NO ONE?? What happens to them?? They can't get to church because they can't drive. They are too ill to go somewhere alone, but not ill enough for a hospital or nursing home? These people need HELP.

How much? Now before I continue, I want to say something, and it’s NOT to toot my own horn. I guess it's more to show that EVERYONE can do SOMETHING. I am not the kind of person who finds it easy to ask for help. And I’m also not one to stand with my hands out giving nothing in return. I do what I can from home. I have corrected Bible lessons through Crossroad Bible Institute for just over 10 years now. They have a wonderful prison ministry wherein they send Bible lessons to inmates all over the WORLD. The inmates then send their completed lessons back to CBI, who sends them on to instructors like me. I correct them, answer any questions the student may have (and some of them are TOUGH questions!) and send it back to the inmate using CBI’s return address.

I have also sponsored a child in Sri Lanka through Christian Children’s Fund (now Child Fund) for about 13 years. I actually am on my second child, because the first one completed school and got a job!

I know some people (hopefully no one who knows me well) are probably thinking, well, she’s preaching all right, but what has she done? Now you know. My husband and I help out people as much as we can…Doug always gives meat to his parents either from the deer he hunts or the cows we now raise. He doesn’t do this because they are his parents, but because they really need it.

So. How much is enough?

What was “enough” for Jesus? When did He stop healing? Serving? Loving? Encouraging?

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” I John 3:16-19 NLT

No one is Jesus. I get that. But if we all gave one week…or one day…or one afternoon…or one HOUR…together, we can be “Jesus with skin” to someone desperately needing to see Him. It’s time for the Body of Christ to come together and act like a body, instead of an institution.


Vociferous said...

I really liked your insight on this and the verse you shared. Serving isn't something we do, it's something we BECOME as we walk with Jesus. It's a natural outpouring of our walk with Him, and hence, not a chore, not a checklist, and not exhausting.
It's WHO we are in Christ.

Trace-n-the-Grace said...

sorry kerri.
that was me, not ryan (vociferous). I was logged in as the wrong person.:-)

Young Wife said...

Um, yeah. There's this saying about getting out of your comfort zone. I agree. The church should do more to take care of people. Thank you for sharing examples of what you CAN do. People with debilitating illnesses may not be able to go to hospitals, but they may be able to mentor young Christians or write letters or knit socks. There's so many ways we can all help.

Patty Ann said...

Kerri, this is a great post today and something I actually talk about a lot on my blog. I think there is something that we can all do. I cannot (nor should I ever even try) to judge others based on my own ideas about right and wrong. I really think that we need to help each other more often. There are always things we can do. There are many volunteer positions, there are people who need food, clothing, service. Sometimes, all they need is someone to talk to, someone to listen. I agree, we all need to learn to be a little more Christ like in our daily lives. You are amazing! Thanks so much for your post today, it is really needed.

Emily Joyce said...

This is such a wonderful post. There is an attitude among believers that there's a limit to how much you can serve or give. No one wants to be considered a "radical" giver. It wasn't enough for Jesus until he'd given his very life. How can we who are bought with a price offer only our leftover scraps and call it "good enough"?