Reaching Out To The Mentally Ill


The Doers & Don’ts; The Saints & The Ain’ts 

The King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you game me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.”

The righteous will answer, “When did we see you this way?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 35:25-40

I have written a book I Was A Stranger And… (about the Ilgenfritz family who have now taken over 350 people into their home over the last 35 years) from this passage and about this theme.  I love Keith Green’s song about the sheep and the goats from this passage.  It is all about the “Doers” and the “Don’ts” who either become the “Saints” or the “Ain’ts” in eternal judgment. And it could all come down as a Church and individual believers on how we handle Christian “brothers” (and sisters) who face the challenge of mental illness!

Is its the Church’s responsibility (our responsibility as individual Christian believers in Jesus Christ) to take care of another believer (or nonbeliever) in Jesus Christ who is facing mental illness? YES! According to the passage above.

Because the Church hasn’t taken the initiative to address the issue of mental illness, the Church has been painted as “witch burners”, jail fillers, and wild hysterical “exorcists” rather than loving care takers.  Because of stigma and lack of knowledge, most Christians do not know how to reach out to the mentally ill.  Did you know:

-        1 of 5 people in jail have a mental illness and isolation is the worst thing for treating it.

-        A large majority of our nations “homeless” have been abandoned by State run hospitals or local communities who do not finance endeavors to care for them.

Are you as a Christian, or your church as a body, reaching out to the homeless, the jailed, those on welfare? Jesus asks, “Did you feed the homeless, give them drink, or clothed them? You do have “pot luck dinners”, don’t you? Did you invite them in? You do know what the gift of hospitality is, don’t you? Did you not only visit the sick, but took care of them personally?  What, you have never been in a prison? What a shame. By the way have you helped anyone who was in prison then released to get a new start on life?  Were you the Good Samaritan, the heathen, or were you the one who passed by, the Pharisee, the good Church person?”

Today’s homeless crisis is a travesty of the Church’s lack to respond.  The government is “We, the people”, but the Church is “We, God’s people”. God’s people ought to be leading the way. The travesty of the number of mentally ill in jails is a result of law enforcement and the judicial system not being taught how to handle the mentally ill, and the church not reaching out to protect those facing mentally illness legally and in accepting them into their community of faith. The Church has always been in the forefront in the fight injustice, and must lead again.

So according to the parable of Matthew 25, judgment comes over the question of being a doer or a don’t on how we treat the “least of these brothers of mine”.   I never thought as a Christian, that the mentally ill and how we handle them could be part of the equation!