In the Beginning...2023...
Hello, my friends, it is my prayer that these words find you healthy and happy…
As I was looking ahead to 2023 and thinking about creating a safe space for people with disabilities and their families and care givers, I was thinking about Lynn talking about Disability Theology.
Well, we might ask the question what is Disability Theology?
Theology of course is the study of God. What is disability? A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions). So, when we bring the two together...disability theology, as John Swinton defines it in the Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, is the “attempt by disabled and non-disabled Christians to understand and interpret the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God, and humanity against the backdrop of the historical and contemporary experience of people with disabilities”
I’d like to share parts of an article I found with you...
("Wheaton Center for Faith and Disability, www.wheaton.edu/faithanddisability, retrieved on [12.27.22].")
Though disability affects every race/ethnicity, religion, age, sex, and socio-economic class, what is perceived as a disability and who gets labeled accordingly varies from culture to culture. When measured against some level of minimal or average performance or standing, we must acknowledge the arbitrariness of such standards. Given the prevalence of disability in society, even those whose loved ones have not yet been touched by disability (whether physical, intellectual, developmental, or neuro-atypical), or by mental illness, will likely be impacted on some level eventually.
God’s Image Bearers: A Glorious Reflection
We read in Genesis that as the pinnacle act of creation, all people are made in the image of God and are designed for intimate relationship with him and others. No matter our capacities, we each bear God’s image individually as integrated persons of body and soul/spirit. We also image God collectively. Our glorious purpose as image-bearers is to reflect God’s character into the world individually, as families, and as communities. (Genesis 1:26–27; 2 Corinthians 3:18)
God’s Image Bearers: A Distorted Reflection
We experience elements of brokenness in every aspect of our lives—in our bodies, minds, emotions, and our relationships—as well as externally, as we live in a world that groans to be freed from the bondage of sin and decay. While brokenness is now inherent to the human condition, disability often draws unique attention to our difficulties. Disability is experienced both functionally, through bodies that do not work as some might expect, and socially through relationships that do not respect, support, and affirm. (Genesis 3; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:19–23)
In God’s economy, human value is not measured by what we can or cannot do, but instead by whose we are. When Moses hesitated to accept God’s commission to deliver his people by citing a self-perceived limitation, God sees no barriers to using those with disabilities to accomplish his purposes. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul declares that the seemingly weaker members of the believing community are indispensable and to be given double honor. Furthermore, human weakness is actually portrayed as a platform to display God’s power. Those perceived as weak and less worthy of praise by human standards are not only suitable, but at times, they are uniquely gifted conduits of God’s grace, mercy, and love. (Exodus 4:10–12; 1 Corinthians 12:20–26; 2 Corinthians 12:7–10)
God’s Law of Love
God is love. When Jesus walked the earth, he said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” This sacrificial love necessarily makes demands on how we treat other people. As finite creatures, human beings are all limited in various ways. Additionally, none of us are autonomous or completely self-sufficient—nor are we meant to be. Disability can enhance the visibility and tangibility of God's love within a community by focusing love’s demands where they reflect God’s character best. Additionally, people with disabilities can lead others into loving well by demonstrating God’s love in unique ways. (Leviticus 19:18; John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 3:16–20; 4:7–12)
God’s People Respond
As God’s people, what is our role in responding to disability? The church is to manifest God’s love to a watching world as we live in counter-cultural ways that reflect the values of God's kingdom on earth. With Jesus as our Head, we constitute his body. We are called to preserve unity in diversity (including diverse abilities)—until we grow into the maturity and stature of Jesus. (Ephesians 3:10–11; 4:13)
The unity of God’s people does not depend upon talent or intellect. It depends on our union with Jesus. This is a relational oneness in Messiah (who himself is one with the Father) and with one another. (Psalm 133; John 17; 1 Corinthians 12:12–26; 1 Peter 4:10)
God's Presence and Purpose In Suffering
Every one of us experiences suffering at some point in our lives. For some, disability itself—or society’s response to disability—may create a source of physical or emotional suffering. Where is God when it comes to suffering? This question becomes especially poignant when disability is in view. We trust he works all things together for the good of his children. Amid even our deepest suffering, he has promised to be with us always—to eternally save, heal, and deliver us. (Psalm 34:18–19; Proverbs 3:11–22; John 16:33; Romans 8:18–28; 2 Corinthians 1:3–5; Hebrews 12:5–8)
So amazing, such beautifully woven together words, a piece of art. I hope that you enjoyed a deeper and richer look into the world of Disability Theology. I plan on unpacking those much more in the months to come. I pray that as we as the body of Christ move forward with our plans to become a community of Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors that we not only say those words but live those words out in the life of our church here at Fowler.
Peace my friends...pastor René