I grew up away from grandparents, an irreversible loss in my life. I had no choice — my parents moved to another city and I was part of the deal. My kids grew up without grandparents. We moved to another continent and my kids were never asked, though we did consider them in our decision.

My kids at least got to see their grandparents more often than I did. We made sure they kept fluent in Portuguese so they could converse with their grandparents when we did visit. And we kept in touch all the time.

We taught our children to respect old age. In the culture of my childhood we revered the elderly. We spoke in hushed tones in their presence. We did not allow them to lift a finger. We listened carefully when they spoke and we never showed any disrespect.

I never knew of nursing homes until I moved to the U.S. The thought that someone other than a relative would take care of an aging parent was foreign to me.

Don’t take me wrong. There are plenty of other forms of abuse of the elderly that happens in other countries. In Brazil, for example, kids tend to linger, even after they get married. When the marriage fails, often the grandparents are left to care for the grandchildren. Grandparents raising grandchildren is a disturbing trend now in the U.S. as well.

When I started looking for jobs as a senior pastor, I picked up early on that my age was a huge issue. The cut off date seems to be 50, after which, if you believe the narrative, you become irrelevant. Start lying down, you are the walking dead.

I refuse to believe that. After someone has peaked in terms of maturity and experience, society wants them to simply go quietly?  I will not play that part. And I am not alone. NPR recently did a story titled “72 is the New 22,” in which they featured several people who after retiring at a ripe age went on to do something remarkable in a completely different field. They even said that scientists now believe you can re-grow brain cells. Hey, I heard it on NPR — it must be true, right?

The Bible is full of injunctions regarding honoring the elderly:

“Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32 NLT).

“Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother…” (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NLT).

These are just a couple of examples, there are many more. I am convinced that serving the elderly is more than a moral obligation; it is a divine obligation. God will judge a generation on the basis of how it treated its elderly. If we honor them, God will bless us; if we treat them as discard-able, God will show us His fierce displeasure and we will only have ourselves to blame.

The United States will just about double its elderly population by the year 2050 — from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050. This will give the church an unprecedented opportunity to reach out in love to our aging population (65 and up). Will you answer the call?

Join us this Sunday at Grace Church as we honor the elderly and talk about opportunities to serve them in the Name of Christ.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz,  PA