When we hear discussions about the sanctity of life, it’s natural to begin by thinking about the abortion epidemic, unplanned pregnancies, and preborn babies. Often, we forget that caring for the vulnerable among us includes caring for those entering the later stages of life. Those over 80 years old struggle with a loss of independence or the inability to do habitual tasks, like driving a car, running errands, or getting themselves to church each week. The elderly population is increasing, and the Church can no longer avoid the fact that aging and dying are universal and personal. Many of us one day will care for parents, family, or friends going through the aging and dying process.
In Leviticus 19:32, God commands us to “stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” This week’s action idea looks at practical ways to care for the aged and show respect for their humanity.
The second greatest commandment in all of Scripture is to love your neighbor as yourself. I want to encourage you to think about an elderly individual this week in your community that you can show love and respect to. At first, it can seem awkward. Most people will even completely avoid engaging in another person’s life, even if they’re in need, because there is a fear of “getting in someone’s business” or “overstepping their boundaries.” Caring for an elderly friend or family member will look differently for every person, but it could be as simple as taking a meal over to their home once a week, asking if they need anything from the grocery store, or simply spending some quality time creating meaningful conversations with them. Those acts of kindness, especially simply asking what you can do to help, are more likely to shine the light of Jesus, than they are to be seen as a burden. People are less likely to ask for help but are more likely to accept the help once it is offered.
As we begin to age and death inevitably draws nearer, we begin thinking more about what comes next. “What happens after death?” is a question some don’t think to ask until they actually are close to death. Building a relationship with the person you’re caring for could look like asking them that question. It’s a great opportunity to listen to them, empathize with them, and try to understand what they believe, in an effort to offer them the hope and eternal life that Jesus offers everyone.
Evangelism among the elderly is something that there is a great need for. The Gospel message is for everyone. We never know who is still questioning if Jesus is who He claims to be, struggling with past hurts and disappointments, or who’s silently feeling like they can’t be forgiven for a sin because too much time has passed. The truth is, it’s never too late to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Offering that message and engaging in that conversation with an elderly friend when the rest of the world overlooks them is what Jesus meant when He talked about loving our neighbors. Your relationship could show them that their life is sacred, especially during a transition in their life where they are struggling with an immense loss of the autonomy they once knew. Small details like knowing their birthday or when their spouse died could show them that they are deeply known and loved.
As in so many other things, God’s Word portrays aging not as a decline, but as a victory for a life well-lived! My prayer is that the Lord will guide you this week as you pray about who needs this reminder in your community or family.
Written by Deacon Georgette Forney, President of Anglicans for Life