My Plea To Christian Pastors
As part of the Bridge Builder Team, I am honored to represent "My people". "My People" are people with disabilities, their parents, siblings, grandparents, and all those who are connected with them in some other way. They became "my people" the moment my brother was diagnosed with mental retardation
In times of crisis, such as a new diagnosis or a birth defect, many anxious parents, Christian and non-Christian alike, flock to the public system which, in a sense, becomes their "church". This system welcomes all my people -offering support, encouragement, and community- A sanctuary from an unkind world. And when a church doesn’t welcome or dis-invites one of my people, the rest of my community are warned about it. It is marked an unsafe place.
Why does the world do a better job with inclusion than the church? I think we Christians, somewhere along the way, have lost sight of God’s perspective towards all of us- we are crippled by sin, in need of a savior. We may have unknowingly given power to "man-made" labels by using them as guidelines to determine who can or cannot understand the things of God. In a sense, we have taken the role of the host to decide who will get an invitation to God's banquet. I confess -I bought into this lie.
Then God exposed the lie and set me free from it through a mother’s words. This mother told me "My daughter's spirit is not retarded!" …..Her words broke the deception in my thinking. Sharing the gospel with a person who cannot make his response known because of his disability is in no way different than sharing the gospel with an able bodied person who offers no response. In both situations, we are to give God’s invitation and trust that the Holy Spirit will do His job.
Helen Keller, who was born deaf and blind, was once asked which disability would be the worst disability to have. She answered "Having sight… but no vision". I come here today to challenge your vision for God’s people. Look at your congregation through God’s eyes. Does your church look like the people who eagerly sought out His Son Jesus? You know, the poor, the blind, the lame, the deaf? Are you welcoming people who may be mentally ill or severely disfigured? Evidently these people are so important to God that they are clearly documented in the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testament?
If we are to be imitators of Jesus, then we must seek out the people who are still in the lanes and the margins of life. God uses these people as change agents. They change us. In fact, we may need them more than they need us. If we don’t have a child with severe disabilities, who is going to show us what true dependence on God looks like. If we don’t have mentally retarded people in our congregations, who will teach us what patience and simple joy looks like. If we don’t invite people different than us, who will teach us how to love unconditionally. Yes …Jesus attracts but …He also disturbs.
So what holds us back in this new millennium? For the most part, The American Disabilities Act doesn’t require churches to legally welcome all. So if not for a legal reason, then what will it take for Christian churches to welcome the people that Jesus was not ashamed to be with? In this day and age, there are many excellent resources and tools are available to support this task. All it takes a willing heart, such as yours, to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to welcome all into His fold. "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." (2Tim:7)
I leave you with this true story. One morning a friend of mine was praying to God and told Him that she would do anything that He wanted her to do. Her desire was to be obedient. She went to the supermarket where she bought a few groceries. The woman who bagged her groceries appeared to be mentally retarded. Lisa thanked her for bagging the groceries and said that she would be able to carry the bag herself. This woman said with great pride "Oh, no, this is my job." Lisa didn’t argue. As they were walking in the parking lot, the Lord said to Lisa "Ask her if she knows me?" Lisa remembering her promise ,obeyed and asked this woman cautiously "Do you know Jesus?. Without hesitation, this woman said" Oh, yes I do……Jesus holds me every time I am having a seizure!"
Lisa left her house that morning thinking that she was going to bless another person for the Lord. God had other plans. God worked through this woman to show Lisa that disability does not stop His plans, His truth. Lisa left the parking lot fully blessed. Tears still come to her eyes as she shares God's revelation on that day.
What excites me is the fact that someone took the time to share Jesus with this woman in spite of her disability. She bridged the disability gap with Jesus. Do you know this servant of Jesus, this bridge builder? Could they be from your congregation? Are you guilty… of sharing Jesus Christ with everyone ? If not, then who is going to remind you that Jesus will be with you when you may have a seizure?"
Thank you for reading my plea for Christians to open their Christian communities to welcome all into God's Kingdom.