REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of March 14, 2021
Care for the Sick: Matt. 25:36
We are in Week 6 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. Last week we started examining rules that focus on care for others with the directive to help the poor. This week we will continue our journey down this ancient path by examining Rule 4.16: Care for the Sick.
As I contemplated this rule of Christian formation, a few questions came to mind. What does God mean when he directs us to care for the sick? How is caring for the sick a Christian distinctive? Aren’t there many people who are not followers of Christ who care for the sick? Reviewing Scripture, there are couple of different ways this directive for Christian formation differs from worldly concepts of caring for the sick.
First, like helping the poor, caring for the sick is part of our call to reflect Christ in the world. As we care for the sick, we reflect that as sinners, we are all spiritually sick and in need of a Savior. Jesus alluded to this in Mark 2:15-17 when he was challenged by the Pharisees for eating with those considered to be unrighteous. Jesus answered them by reminding them that it was the sick, not the healthy, who were in need of a physician. Additionally, Jesus routinely enraged the religious elite in performing his miracles because along with healing the illnesses, he pronounced forgiveness for the recipient’s sin. When we care for the sick, we remind ourselves and others that we all need the healing touch of the Great Physician.
Second, Scripture teaches us in James 5:14-16 that there are certain illnesses that are derived from sin. We must be cautious here to emphasize that this passage in James is not talking about all illness, yet it is clear that there are some sin-based illnesses. Whether the illness is the result of sinful choices we have made, or whether the illness is derived from the soul-crushing burden of carrying around unconfessed sin, the results are devastating and debilitating. In these circumstances, there is something the Church can provide that no secular physician can—PRAYER. In those circumstances where the illness is the result of sin and the one who has sinned is willing to repent and confess such sin, James tells us the prayer of faith offered by the elders of the Church has the power to heal. However, it is important to note that though it is the elders who offer the prayer of faith, it is God who does the healing.
Thus, the Church is to be on the front lines when it comes to caring for the sick, as we have a unique remedy no worldly physician can provide—the power of the Gospel. Additionally, we must remember that God has not called the Church to be a stationary hospital, waiting for the sick to arrive. He has commissioned us to be the mobile M.A.S.H. units of the Gospel, carrying healing with us wherever we go.
- Take a moment to consider your spiritual sickness apart from Christ. How has Christ healed your heart, your life, and your relationships?
- Consider for a moment how carrying unconfessed sin might impact one’s health. How might confession and repentance bring healing to one’s life?
- What are some areas where you might need spiritual healing?
- How does caring for the sick reflect the nature and character of God? What are some tangible ways you can care for the sick, both physically and spiritually?