I just finished reading Mike Beates’ helpful book Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace. The book is important and necessary, and is disarming in its direct honesty. It is a disturbing challenge to consider how the Christian church has successfully excluded the ‘different’ and the ‘imperfect’ from her community.
The book stimulated two tangential thoughts which I think call for some more long term thinking.
Once again I’m struck with how God has used the non-Christian to shame the church. If any should be the champions of the weak and powerless, it should be Christians who have a deep appreciation for the gospel of grace. And yet the most forceful, effective and prophetic voices in fighting for accessibility in the broader culture have come not from Christians, but from those outside the church. Our blind spots have been legion (see slavery, civil rights, poverty). When will we have eyes to see the causes worth championing and the courage to champion them?
One cause that we have championed has been a concern for the unborn. But labor in this field, while producing local and individual victories, has not produced much in the way of a fundamental shift in public concern. After 40 years, abortion is still legal and prevalent.
And so I wonder if there is a connection between our embrace of the ’cause’ of life for the unborn and our lack of embrace of the actually disabled all around us. Causes are always easy to embrace, but broken people are not. Letter writing, petition signing and sign carrying are all fairly easy and antiseptic. But actually engaging our lives with those whose brokenness makes us uncomfortable is all so much more difficult.
Perhaps what this exposes is hypocrisy in our camp. We OUGHT to care passionately about the unborn and the women who carry them. But the reality of our caring is tested and measured by our lack of concern for the born, but different. Perhaps God withholds his blessing until we learn to love in deed all the least of these.
Although I have not read the book, I could not agree with you more wholeheartedly. While I believe we as Christians have good intentions, it seems like we are on a treadmill running at a high speed and cannot slow down, let alone get off. Our lives are filled with activities that we have convinced ourselves are for our own survival, and we cannot even keep up with our own lives, let alone have time to reach out and include others into it. As you stated, letter writing, and petition signing are much easier and require really no commitment. We sign for the cause and go back to running. Somehow this eases our conscience.
Besides the fact that we are too busy, most of us gravitate towards those like us and avoid anything that doesn’t fit our ideas, match our personalities, or would cause us to be uncomfortable. Instead of looking beyond what the eyes can see, we look only at the surface, draw conclusions, and then move on forgetting our real purpose.
We judge by what is visible and then build barriers. In all actuality, since we are selfish creatures of habit, we like what makes us comfortable and doesn’t interrupt our time or cultural beliefs.
The church has the greatest opportunity to make the biggest impact within the community, and the world, but charity begins at home. We have to role model this as Christians with each other. We MUST make time for each other, take time to get to know those that are different within our own congregation, and take the time to share a smile or a hug with those that enter our churches, as well as those that we interact with each day. Once we do that we can move mountains,
Love and actions are more powerful than a thousand pages of signatures.
I think Casting Crowns said it best in their song…
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even knows she’s going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
What a wonderfully articulate and passionate response. Thanks, Suzanne.