In case you missed it, Robertson was responding to a question about a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s. The man was bemoaning the unfairness of having to care for a wife who no longer knew him and he had began to see another woman. The writer wanted to know what she should say to the man.
Robertson said he wouldn't blame those who decide to divorce a spouse suffering from Alzheimer's, that divorce would be OK in a situation that involves something as terrible as Alzheimer's.
"I know it sounds cruel but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again," he said, "[and] make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her."
Robertson continued: "I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because here's the loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years and suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone!"
Co-host Terry Meeuwsen noted that when couples marry they vow "for better, for worse."
Robertson replied, "You said 'till death do us part;' this (suffering from Alzheimer's) is a kind of death. I certainly wouldn't put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship; you're lonely. I can't fault them for wanting some kind of companionship. If he says in a sense she is gone, he is right. It is like a walking death."
I just want to make a few quick points:
* To those who judge Jesus and the Christians around you by what Pat Robertson (or any television evangelist) says, please stop. Pat Robertson doesn’t speak for me. He never has, through his long history of saying things without thought or Scriptural backing. Don’t assume that because he wears the name of Christian that he speaks for all of us, or even many of us. And please don’t assume that he speaks for Jesus. The same thing is true of anyone you see preaching on television. They don’t speak for me. If you want to know what I think, ask me. It gets frustrating when all of those who follow Jesus are lumped in with those with the loudest voices or who can afford television time.
* What Robertson is espousing is what he and too many others have been teaching for years – a “prosperity” gospel that teaches, at its core, that following Jesus is the way to make sure your life is always full and happy – that your happiness is the greatest good and greatest goal. Whether it is through having all of your material wants or a marriage that is always satisfying.
But the Scriptures don’t teach that. God’s highest will for you isn’t your happiness. It is your character, that you mature into the fullness of Christ. God knows that it is in being like Jesus that you will find peace and joy. And it will be the way that God is most glorified.
Yes, there is blessing and fullness of life that comes from a relationship with Christ. But it is a blessing and fullness that often comes in the midst of struggle and sorrow and disappointment. Jesus said that we would face difficulties. What we find as those who walk with Christ is that we can experience fullness and peace in the midst of conflict and difficulty and pain as we become more and more like Jesus.
* The New Testament describes marriage as an image of Christ’s relationship with his Bride – the Church. The relationship between a Christian husband and wife is to be a picture of what our relationship with Christ is like. The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ
“… loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28)
The truth is that Christ’s love for us isn’t dependent on how beautiful or useful we are. He loves us because that is his nature. And his love is one that always seeks to give. Too often, we have chased a “love” that is more concerned with what we can gain than what we can give, with what’s in it for us rather than what we can do for another.
* There is no more beautiful image of a life well-lived than that of a husband or wife faithfully, lovingly, and sacrificially caring for the one they have committed to love – even if it isn’t recognized or appreciated. Years ago, I read a letter from Robertson McQuilkin, former president of Columbia Bible College, whose wife, Muriel, suffered from advanced stages of Alzheimer's. In announcing his resignation, he said:
“The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health...till death us do part.’ So, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel…. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.”
Gina and I both have family members who have modeled the same kind of deep, sacrificial, beautiful love as they have cared for their wives and husbands through the struggles of dementia. My admiration and respect for them goes far beyond what I could ever give some television evangelist, sports hero, or entertainment star. They have been people of character and integrity who have modeled the love and faithfulness of Christ in very real and tangible ways.
Russell Moore put it this way:
“Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them. But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.”