(First posted on http://irresistiblechurch.org/disability-gospel-part-2-5/#)
How are people with disabilities viewed? I am guessing that if you asked the general public, you would get a variety of answers that might sound something like the following:
- I feel sorry for them.
- Isn’t it such a shame that they have to live like that?
- I’m glad I’m not different like that.
- Freak show!
I think you would find a mixture of comments driven either by pity or ignorance. Pity motivates people to feel sorry for individuals with disabilities. Those that pity people with disabilities may be moved enough to reach out and help, but would be doing so with the wrong perspective. Ignorance motivates people to either ignore individuals with disabilities or to act in a harmful ways towards them.
Both of these perspectives, when held by people without disabilities, create an “us” versus “them” mentality. People become categorized. People become labeled as either “typical” or “not.” Let me stop and say that neither of these perspectives provides a healthy approach. This is a flawed worldview.
Ultimately our worldview should be shaped by our theology. What is theology? Simply put, theology is a study of God and His words. What we believe about God and what He says should drive us in all aspects of our lives. This, however, is unfortunately not the case for many today. This is not a slam on people, or a rant on biblical illiteracy. This is just the way it has become in a culture where autonomy is king. The fact of the matter is – our worldviews often shape our theology today.
Having said that, we will need to work backwards to establish a proper understanding of the theology of disability ministry. We will need to tackle some tough questions that may be shaped by an improper worldview with an objective look at Scripture.
In order to take our first step in the right direction, we need to debunk the “us” versus “them” worldview that is very much alive today. The fact that people are actively labeled and categorized as “typical” or “not typical” is both wrong and unbiblical.
The reason it is not biblical comes from what we know about Jesus, who came to Earth as a human. John 1:14 (NIRV) says, “The Word became a human being. He made his home with us.” “God with us” is a very inclusive statement. “God with us” works because God became one of us. There is no “us” versus “them” mentality with Christ. It is simply an “us” conversation with no other pre-qualifiers.
Scripture also tells us in Hebrews 2:11 (NIV), “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Again, Jesus declares that “we” are part of His family. This is an “us” conversation. This could not be clearer as Jesus declares that we are His brothers and sisters. We don’t see anywhere in Scripture that Jesus came only for those who are called “typical.” We don’t see anywhere in Scripture that Jesus came only for those who possess an IQ score above 70. Jesus simply declared that He is one of “us.”