When someone in our home gets sick they get cared for by other family members. The sick person’s normal responsibilities are put off or taken care of by someone else, they are tucked into a soft, warm place to rest, are brought nourishment, and are attended to with extra care and attention. We know to expect that their sickness shows itself in symptoms that are not pleasant, sometimes down right offensive and hard to stomach and often the caretaker needs to clean up a mess! But we also know that if given the right care and medical treatment, their symptoms will subside, the illness should pass and eventually they will get back to living their purpose-filled life.
In the very same sense there are those who are spiritually sick, specifically those who have fallen into sin or maybe even boldly walked into it, either way, they are spiritually in dire shape. Who takes care of them? Who is the family from which they may expect love and concern? The symptoms of the spiritually sick that get exhibited often are hard to stomach, can be offensive and in many cases creates a horrible mess. In addition, some people are stubborn and make difficult ‘patients’, therefore the caretaker needs to be stern. Other spiritually sick need intense care and require a lot of time. In any case, just like with the physically sick, the spiritually sick greatly benefit from the loving help and care of the family of God to guide them on their road to recovery.
I will be the first to admit I have not loved or cared for the spiritually sick well and I have much regret for that. In some cases I was scared, or appalled at the sin, or at a loss for what I could or should do, or in some cases just didn’t care-thinking someone else will handle it or maybe if I ignore them the ‘problem’ will just disappear. My actions have been unloving and inexcusable. But God has taught me, having walked in those spiritually sick shoes myself, that when the family of God does nothing, for whatever reason, it is devastating to the sinner, prolongs recovery, and ultimately affects the ministry of the church. I am reminded of Galatians 6:1,2 which reads:
“…if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand.”
Just as I would not think to tell a loved one who is physically sick, “well, you got yourself sick, you therefore deserve to be so…you are on your own!” No… taking care not to jeopardize your own spiritual health, we are called by God to help each other. We need to look beyond the ugliness of the sin to the person who God loves, to look past the unpleasant ‘symptoms’ of their spiritual sickness to who God created them to be, and to love and care for them, in order that they may once again become a vital part of the Family.
“…it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. ” 2 Corinthians 2:7,8