You probably have heard the hubbub about Pat Robertson’s outlandish advice to a spouse whose wife has Alzheimer’s. In case you haven’t, here’s CNN’s account of the controversy: 

Squaring Pat Robertson’s Alzheimer’s remarks with the Bible – CNN Belief Blog – Blogs

We all know of Pat Robertson’s notorious proclivity to hoof-in-mouth’s disease. CNN’s report is just another example of his too often thoughtless comments made without biblical rationale. But, according to this article, he refused to recant these absurd and cruel comments. Might pride be a factor? Or just ignorance?  Maybe he has early stages dementia. You be the judge. Instead of railing against this view that is so asinine most atheists would call it inhumane, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss how Christians should minister to those affected by this horrible disease. For what it’s worth, my views clash with the televangelist’s. Here they are:

  • We must try to see all people (even those with Alzheimer’s) as God would see them. They are His creation, worthy of dignity and love, and have emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Most critically, Alzheimer’s patients and their families need the hope that can only come from the Gospel of Jesus.
  • Never forget the Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). If you were to have this terrible disease, how would you prefer to be treated? Would you want to be abandoned, forgotten, neglected, and unloved? Truth be told, it could eventually be you that suffers from dementia and its sister cognitive diseases – ABC News reports that there are  5.4 million Alzheimer’s patients in the US today and this number is expected to grow dramatically as the Baby Boomers age.
  • Realize that everyone is your neighbor and Christ command us to love and care for them. The Parable of the Good Samaritan should be etched in our hearts (see Luke 10:25-37). When asked who our neighbor is, Jesus shared this story. Christ’s message should compel us to serve the hurting and needy. His final words of this passage punctuate His teaching with, “go, and do likewise.”
  • Remember that the patient never suffers alone (unless folks take Pat Robertson’s advice). Families hurt along with their loved ones inflicted with this demoralizing malady. They need our love, prayers, and support along with the primary victims of Alzheimer’s. These family members could use our Christ-centered love and encouragement.
  • Do practical things to help ease the burden, pressures, and pain that are usually associated with such suffering. This article gives some very useful tips on what we can do to help both the patient and their relatives beyond just prayer and encouraging words – ABC’s of Alzheimer’s Ministry.
  • And, maybe most importantly, be motivated by the truth that loving and ministering to an Alzheimer’s patient and their loved ones is tantamount to loving and ministering to Jesus Himself. For the full impact of this truth, only the complete passage will do:

“And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:33-46).

My wife, Rebekah, who works in a nursing home, has forever had a heart of compassion for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. In many ways she considers this her calling, her ministry. She has many stories of those, and their families, who suffer with these diseases. One seems most appropriate here:

“One of our residents is in late stages Alzheimer’s and barely knows she is in the world. But, like her, well into his 80’s and feeble himself, her husband comes every day. He arrives early, kisses her gently. and sits with her all day. He talks to her, reads to her, and when she becomes distraught or agitated he hugs her with a long, loving, comforting embrace. At the end of the day he kisses her again, toddles to his car, and returns home. But he is always there, every day for hours. It’s one of the most Christ-like things I have ever witnessed.”

And don’t we agree? I’m confident Jesus does! Then let’s “go and do likewise.”