What if they forget about God?
Ever wonder why Christians don't ask God to dash our enemy's children against the rocks? Or why we don’t cut off our own hands? Or gouge out our eyes? Even though these verses are found in the Bible?
One reason is because we are warned against a practice called proof texting -- the practice of constructing an entire theology from single isolated verses. We are taught instead to take the whole counsel of Scripture into consideration. Doing so helps protect us from serious error. We learn that Christ assumes our offense. The children sleep soundly. Our hands and eyes remain intact.
In a similar way, we should also be careful when tempted to judge someone's eternity based on single moments of failure; or even a prolonged season with a disease that robs its victims of their memory, identity, and rationality. Dementia presents a litany of difficulties for us to contend with. Sometimes these include concerns over our loved one's salvation. We wonder about it when they behave in ways out of phase with the redeemed life we used to share. When they speak in vulgar tongues. When sexual impulses go unchecked. Or when they don't appear to remember God anymore. Watching their brain unravel is hard. But does it mean their salvation has unwound, too?
In my work, I test software for mistakes. But not just any mistakes. I look for those which would crash the system, or lie to the user, or ruin the reputation of those who made it. These mistakes are called "bugs". Bugs are inconsistent with what the software is supposed to do. Bugs have very human origins: someone forgot to program something important, or confused the computer with a misspelled word. Mistakes very much like the ones we all make every day -- even if you have never programmed a computer.
When I find a bug, I don't throw away the computer. Nor do I try to convince management to abandon the whole idea of computers. I know I have only observed a single malfunction in a vast system. If we do not toss away our computers, then why should we feel as though God must reject our loved ones with dementia when they have "bugs"?
Point is: we are not bugs in our original design. We bear the image of God. When that image became fractured in the Fall, God did not abandon us (no matter how much Satan believes He should have). God saw something worthy of redemption. He saw the part of Himself He put in us. And He sent His son Jesus to fix the problem once and for all with his perfect life.
Yet we still see signs that sin is alive and well in the world, don’t we? These signs include our loved one’s descent into ungodly behavior. Did Christ fail? Should we expect a mass extinction event at the hand of a regret-filled deity? Hardly. One could only believe that if they stopped reading the Bible at Genesis 6:5-7.
"The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, 'I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.'"
Stopping there and assuming God regrets having made me, you or your loved one with dementia because our minds appear to be inclined towards evil behavior -- is proof texting. We instead keep reading through the Gospels, through to 2 Timothy…
"…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself"
And even all the way to Revelation 21…
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'"
The whole of Scripture balances out the extremes. We see God's redemptive work is a process that involves our history and our future. God is not done with us as a race. Which means He isn't done with your father, your mother, your wife, or your husband either.
Think about all this the next time your loved one with dementia devolves into a shadow version of themselves. God does not proof text our lives. He knows us down to our very essence, beyond failing mind and fading memory. He considers our lives in their totality, not just the inglorious sputtering near the end. Salvation is not based on our most recent performance, but on Christ's eternal accomplishment. And remember: even in the midst of our faltering frames, He is making all things new.