“I was sick and in prison and you visited me not.” Matthew 25:43
In Matthew 25:41-46, Jesus Christ shows the terrifying consequences of ignoring the plight of our neighbors. Some Christians might argue that there is no commandment specifically given to the church to visit the sick and the prisoner. But the examples spoken of in these verses show how important our good works are to Jesus Christ. They also show how deeply Jesus identifies with the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the wounded.
Christians often visit sick friends and acquaintances they know. But Christians are not commanded to visit only those sick people they know. They are commanded to visit all the sick. If we visit only those we love, are we any better than unbelievers? The same can be said for prisoners. Christians are to bring the loving healing presence of God’s Holy Spirit to those who are sick or imprisoned.
We visit the imprisoned, the sick, and the poor first because a visitation from a fellow Christian brings healing communication to the heart of the sufferer. The heart of the believer is refreshed because he feels he is loved. It is a mercy to show people that they are loved. St Paul declares in Romans 12:8 that he who shows mercy must show mercy with cheerfulness. This means we are to visit the sick and the imprisoned with a spirit full of compassion, hopeful cheer, and commiseration. Judgmentalism, self-righteousness, and pride in our “charitable work” is to be absent. We are to show the sick person that all the body of believers value and love them as much as they love Jesus Christ who was poor, imprisoned, wounded, thirsty…and who has not forgotten His human life.