(First posted on: http://irresistiblechurch.org/god-part-2-4/#)
Okay, we get it. People born with disabilities are not an accident. But, if this is true and God knows about it, maybe even God did it. What’s up with that? Some people conclude that people born with disabilities are being punished. Or maybe their parents are being punished for something – perhaps that’s the reason.
This might sound like a ridiculous assumption, but this conclusion was widely accepted in biblical times. Even today, there are parts of the world that hold this belief.
Throughout Scripture we see a biblical basis for disability ministry. John chapter 9, specifically speaks to the question, “Are people born with disabilities being punished?”
Jesus is confronted by His own disciples with this very question after they see a man who was born blind. Think about that – Jesus’ own disciples were indoctrinated with the belief that disability was a punishment from God. This view was something that was both believed and taught by the religious leaders during Jesus’ life – but this is a flawed worldview.
Side note… You will encounter churches and church leadership today that operate with flawed worldviews and bad theology. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us. Jesus encountered it, and so will we. When we see it, we must be able to correct it just as Jesus did.
Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question was classic. It is one that everyone in disability ministry should remember. “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life’” (John 9:3).
There is so much we can learn from this powerful statement!
First, we can conclude that people born with disabilities are not being punished. People who are born with disabilities are not a punishment for some one else’s sin. In sum, disability is not a punishment.
Second, we can conclude that disability is actually an opportunity to display God and His power. The disciples probably took one look at the blind man and were filled with pity thinking, “What a shame that someone sinned in that family. Now the dude can’t see as a result.” Jesus surprised them and challenged the way they were taught to think by essentially saying, “Hold up one minute. You are looking at this the wrong way. Your theology is all mixed up.”
We often don’t realize that our way of thinking is flawed – clearly the disciples didn’t realize they were off. Jesus helps them see the flaw in their belief system. He helps them see a bigger picture, one that they had never considered. In the disciples’ minds, disability was a negative thing. It was a punishment. It was a billboard that read, “Look at me, I’m a sinner!” or “Look at me, I’m really unlucky because my parents are sinners.” With one statement Jesus changes everything. He helps the disciples realize that disability is an opportunity for something amazing!
Jesus goes on to heal the man who was born blind sparking an epic debate with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. In the end, God is glorified because this debate reveals the true identity of Jesus. All because the man was born blind so that the “works of God might be displayed in him.”
What if we stopped looking at disability negatively and believed it was an opportunity for something positive? What if we looked at disability as an opportunity to encounter God? What if…