In the closing days of Jesus’ earthly life he spoke pointedly of the difference between true and false religion. Matthew 25:31-46 gives many examples of the ways one might serve God by assisting those less fortunate. Of interest is the word “visited” (Vs. 36) and “visit” (Vs. 43). This is reminiscent of the persecutions that Jesus predicted for his followers (Lk. 21:12). Visiting them would be more than a mere social call (Phil. 2:25). While visiting is the act of going to a person, it is more. It is going to a person with the intent to help in a given situation.
Why were the persons depicted by Jesus in verses 41-43 not visited? Clearly it was neglect of duty. It depicts a situation wherein we might let down our guard. People often look upon such neglect as a small matter. We might keep ourselves clean of crimes, but neglect the simple aspects of love, kindness and brotherly attention.
In our visitation program we want to contact people and lift them up in all the areas wherein they might need help. As Christians we should overlook no one in our efforts to visit them. Sometimes, however, there are those who are not visited. Why?
Some do not require special help. There are many brethren that are perfectly self-reliant and independent. They are strong in the faith and do not require any special help. If they are not in Bible classes or worship it is for good reason. And, quite often, they will contact the office and let us know what is going on with them and why they have been, or will be, absent from Bible classes and worship services. Such thoughtfulness is deeply appreciated.
Some do not make their needs known. Some people prefer not to call attention to themselves, or trouble others unnecessarily. Sometimes, however, brethren are sick, either at home or in the hospital, and it is unknown to others. Some may know, but do not inform others. It may be assumed that others know of the situation when they do not. In cases like this some people demonstrate a spirit of understanding if they are not visited while in the hospital, in view of the fact that no one knew of their problems. In other cases brethren are not of such an understanding mentality and word usually gets back to the elders, through a second party, that no one visited them, or their family member, while they were in the hospital. In some cases like this even the elders are unapprised of their situation and consequently did not visit them. Everyone comes out of this with “egg on their faces,” and we are forced to ask, “Who knew about you’re being in the hospital that didn’t let us know?”
Some do not make themselves easy to visit. They are not easy to visit because they are basically unapproachable. They are often the last to enter a worship assembly and the first to exit. They leave so quickly that most people will never meet them. They rarely speak to others and then claim that no one speaks to them. They may be heard to say that the congregation is unfriendly, but they themselves are the cause of it. They are easy with a critical attitude and wonder why they are not visited. Inconsistently, they say, “No one visited me,” when the welcome mat of their lives is kicked aside.
Some are neglecting their responsibility. This is the problem treated by Jesus in Matthew 25. Some have never made a serious visit with the purpose of helping someone else in a meaningful way. This is why a visitation program is so important to the growth of the church. It helps us to get into the lives of the sick, weak and wayward. It removes the element of neglect into which we tend to drift at times. It helps us to forget about our own problems and concentrate on the needs of others.
by Dennis Gulledge