Older people have significant contribution to make
The Christian message has a significant contribution to make in the ministry of caring for the aged. It teaches or implies the following:
First, that every person matters Christ taught that all persons are of equal value and worth irrespective of sex, race, background or age. The local church must cease to regard and treat older people as second class members. Every aged person can be included in the ministry of the church.
Second, honour and respect should be given to the aged The commandment 'Honour your father and mother' is the first commandment with a promise: so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth (Ephesians 6:2,3). Such teaching is not exhausted when we turn 18 or set up our own house.
Third, the aged should be included in a broad network of relationships Older members should not always be grouped together in isolation from others. There is a place for organisations and activities for different age groupings. Equally important are small groups, services and activities for members of all ages.
Fourth, the creative role should be found for the aged in the ministry of the church If it is God's will that we live to an older age then we have to believe that God has some greater purpose for us than simply filling in time before we die! With ageing comes certain gains as well as losses. The local church should encourage older persons to exercise a ministry in which they can use their particular abilities and gifts.
Fifth, we should encourage the aged to think about ultimate issues Much of the welfare work done for the aged avoids the reality of death and dying. We do the aged a great disservice if we fail to prepare them for the end. 'We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one must receive good or evil, according to what has been done in the body’ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Sixth, the presentation of the gospel is a message of hope Christ is our only hope in this world and the next. Those who belong to Christ have eternal life. All people, including the aged can be encouraged with these words of St Paul: 'We do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed ever day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to things that are seen but to things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Take heart and be encouraged!
Acknowledgements: Ray Smith, People Caring for People, Acorn Press, Canberra. Ray Smith is a retired Bishop and former Archdeacon in this Diocese