Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dealing with old age

I had the opportunity recently to spend some time with an older couple who believe they are near death. The experience changed the way I think about evangelism and the effects of aging. Since this couple hasn't been involved with a church for a long time and doesn't seem to have a healthy personal relationship with the Lord, I wanted to be sure to speak clearly with them about the Gospel.

The Lord certainly opened a door when the husband started out our first evening together by loudly declaring that, "My ways aren't your ways, and I'm too old to change now!" I was taken aback by the sudden outburst, but I came to realize that he was only talking about alcohol (he wrongly assumed I'm a teetotaler), and not the larger matters of the Christian faith. After a few evenings together we were able to have a good discussion about the essentials (Holy God, sinful man, Christ as substitute, and your response to these truths). I believe there may be some fruit of regeneration in this couple's life.

What I took away from our time together is a more sensitive understanding of old age. Many times I would be asked the same question repeatedly within a short amount of time, like "Did you borrow my keys?" When sharing the gospel with the aged (if there is dementia involved) we must be patient and be unperturbed by sudden "resets and replays" in the conversation.

We should also be sympathetic to the annoying physical burdens of advanced age. At the close of one day, the man I was speaking with again apologized needlessly for sipping whisky in my presence and said with some measure of exasperation, "walk a mile in my shoes!" His daily pain and weakening physical abilities should bring out empathy in us, but also an urgency in our appeals to look beyond the grave.

Do we firmly believe that without Christ there is no hope? If so, we must labor in prayer and conversation with those who are obviously very soon to face that reality.

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