Christian Caregiving

According to Jesus in Matthew 25 one of the evidences that we belong to Him is that we care for others.  But it is more than just caring, it is a Christ kind of caring, a unique kind of caring.  Caregiving in America is big business and there are some fine places doing a fabulous job to care for the needs of folks.  Usually when we think of caregiving it has to do with tragedies that have happened in someone’s life or end of life needs.  While virtually all of us will at some point need someone who will give care to us, it is also true that every one of us will probably have opportunities to care for others.  According to Jesus, His people will have cared physically, spiritually, emotionally, institutionally, personally, practically and it is a care that is given to someone not because they are of great importance or have the largest need, but they may be the least known and important and their need may be simply oppressive loneliness.

In our world today with specialized care provided by various institutions and agencies such as hospice and memory care facilities, there are some great folks highly skilled and providing and deeply caring who share on the front lines of needs whether they be accident related or a disease that is taking life and energy or memory away.  These institutions may do a great work, and the people there may genuinely care, but often it is the caregiver who unknowingly loses out on the opportunity to be a blessing and thereby share their love and receive an overwhelming blessing.  According to Jesus, His followers have a different approach to caregiving that is beyond simply doing a task or following orders.

One, Christian caregiving involves staying aware.  Listen to Jesus as He talks about His followers connecting with needs – someone was hungry and they fed them; thirsty and they went out of the way to give them something to drink; they were sick and unable to get out and about and they went to them; they were locked up in prison and the Jesus people found a way to get past the bars and the locked doors to care.  In the fast paced activities of work and life and raising kids and rushing to appointments, we lose some of our sensitivity and someone may quietly drop out of society and we do not even notice.  We may have heard about it, but we assume that probably later they will be back.  Time passes and our awareness continues to be lower and then we hear they’re gone.

Secondly, Christian caregiving offers care.  It is a caring simply because you care, not because the person is of high standing in society or because they can reciprocate and help you in any way, but simply because you love.  Almost a year ago, Dr. Earl Kelly who was executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in the years of his service, went home to be with the Lord.  He was an outstanding preacher, a thoughtful leader, and a dear friend.  Some years ago he and I were to be in a meeting together in another state.  He was hesitant about going to the meeting because his wife, Marjorie, was in a care facility in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s.  But with the encouragement of others and since he would only be gone a couple of days, he agreed to attend the meeting.  We got to the meeting on Monday evening and on Tuesday morning at breakfast he came to me and said, “Jim, I’ve got to go back.”  I said, “Did something happen?”  He said, “Well, no, but I’ve got to go back and take care of Marjorie.”  I said, “Dr. Kelly, I understand, but she is being taken care of.”  He said, “I know that, but I need to be there and take care of her.”  Then, thoughtfully and reflectively he said, “She does not know me and she will not even know that I am there, but I will.”  And I encouraged him to leave.  You see, Christian caregiving is built not on the other person’s love, care and even knowledge, but on the giver’s care, understanding and love.

I know that dealing with some of these diseases and issues in life are so taxing and draining to the caregiver to the point that I have at times seen people who get so frustrated, even angry, because a person can’t remember one minute to the next or respond in a way that they used to.  But this kind of caring and giving is not about them, it is about us loving.  It actually is not about their condition or what put them there, it’s about us loving.  In an incredible parable Jesus told about the man who was beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road.  The story we call The Good Samaritan has in it some interesting reflections about helping folks when you see them, for there were two different people who passed by and saw the man and saw the need and went on.  Now in truth, one or both of those guys is probably us.  How many times are we aware of a need and we’re even in a position to help and we may even have a tinge of want-to in us, but it is so easy to pretend that we didn’t see it, didn’t know it, walk on by instead of taking a moment simply to love.

One last thought about Christian caregiving that I would like to share with you and that is this kind of caregiving remembers prayer.  Actually, prayer is not mentioned in Jesus’ end of the world account in Matthew 25, but it’s a part of you and me.  How many times have we asked the Lord to use us?  Even in our prayer we realize we’re not significant in the world and may not have a big circle of influence, but just ask God to guide us during the day and use us.  And so we head out into our world, whether it’s just taking care of things at the home or going to a meeting at church or meeting with some friends or being with our family; invariably on the way, or where we are there are those moments and opportunities. People call them choice points where you face a choice of simply taking that few seconds or a minute or even a few minutes to do what you had asked God to give you opportunity to do and there it is, right there at your fingertips.

And now you have the choice, a kind word, a cup of water, pause to see if you can make a difference with someone, a note of thanks, a heart of rejoicing, choice points.  You will see some today, no doubt, and it may involve people you know or that you’ve never seen before.  All of a sudden, right there in clear view is your call from God to provide Christian caregiving.  Don’t miss your chance today to be a blessing.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer