Dwelling in God’s word: valuing and connecting with people living with disability
In our world view, disability is an abnormal part of a normal world. In Christ’s view, disability is a normal part of an abnormal world.
We often hear a lot about equality, respect and dignity – especially as we advocate for and support those in our community who may be living with a disability.
What I love about the biblical message of the God who loves us, is that our value is not determined by our strengths or weakness, who we are, whether we live with disability or whether we are captain of the football or debating teams. Our worth is defined by a God who loves us unconditionally and who sees our value from that perspective. God calls us to be his love and share his love as we serve others.
Read Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139:13,14.
What does ‘made in the image of God’ really mean?
No matter how much the image of God is marred by sin, illness, weakness, age or any disability, every person has the status of being in God’s image and therefore must be treated with the dignity and respect due to God’s image-bearer.
Read 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 6:16–19 and Proverbs 16:18. Every life holds inestimable worth.
Can we recognise God’s good plans for people irrespective of their abilities or disabilities?
How we perceive people with a disability and especially our prejudices can make a profound influence on their wellbeing. Just because someone has a disability does not mean they need to be ‘fixed’. If we create an environment where people living with a disability can serve others based on their strengths and abilities, are we not seeing people through God’s eyes?
Read John 9.
How wonderful it is that God’s works can be displayed in someone the world may have looked down on. It is interesting that the Pharisees ostracised the man formerly blind, assuming he was unable to provide any wisdom (John 9:34).
How much do we judge someone by their disability rather than seeing how God can do mighty work through them?
Read Matthew 9:9–13. In our congregations or our homes, do we say we are inclusive and open and would welcome anyone with disability? Or are we like Jesus who went out his way to meet people where they were?
Jesus did not invite sinners to his perfect synagogue. He went to Matthew’s house (the tax collector).
If we want to display Christ-like love and service to people with a disability, how can we reach out to them? How much do we really care about the interests and wellbeing of people with disabilities in our church and society?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 and 1 Corinthians 1:25–30.
We need to be intentional about emphasising the unique gifts and talents that a person has rather than any disabilities, diagnosis or limitations.
Do we say to any part of our body that is weak ‘we don’t need you’ or do we honour it and rejoice with it?
We are called to serve and be served. Is there a way we can honour and show dignity to those around us who may live with a disability by letting them serve us?
Read James 5:16.
Please pray for those living among us who may be suffering or struggling with physical, mental health or social challenges. When was the last time you specifically and intentionally prayed for someone who may have a disability? Pray that God will perform a mighty work through them. Pray they will know it is not about what they can do for God, or even in this case what he does for them, but that God is with them as they serve.
No matter what each day brings, God is with us bringing the hope of divine steadfast love and faithfulness.
John van Ruth is Chief Executive Officer, Lutheran Disability Services (SA).