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Religion and Disabilities
How does religion deal with disabilities
A disability is a physical, mental, cognitive, sensory, emotional or developmental condition that can limit a person’s movements, senses or activities. In the bible, we learn of Jesus’ healing of disabled people. In Matthew 4:23-25, Jesus is in Galilee and “heal(s) every disease and every affliction among the people.” As a result, people begin to follow Jesus. His power to heal makes people want to be near Him and listen to all that He has to say. Disabilities present challenges to both those who have the condition as well as to those who interact with disabled people. The disabled must learn to live their lives to their fullest capacity in the eyes of God. Those who are not disabled, must encourage and support the disabled and never try to limit their abilities.
There are many examples of people with disabilities in the bible. In Matthew 8:1-13, Jesus heals a man with leprosy by touching him. Later, a centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant without even seeing him because the centurion has such great faith in Jesus. Jesus is amazed by the centurion’s faith in Him, and the servant is healed. In Mark 9:2-29, there is a young man who is afflicted by a demon and the disciples are unable to heal him. The father of the boy asks Jesus to help him “if (He) can” and Jesus responds, “everything is possible for one who believes.” The man, eager to have his son cured responds, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus healed the young man and when the disciples asked why they were not able to, Jesus responded that this healing could “come out only by prayer.”
Through the teachings of Jesus, we know that we must have strong beliefs and prayer. Both can help us get through the many obstacles that we may find in our lives. Often, people incorrectly regard a disability as the result of a sin. This is also shown in the bible, in John 9:1-12 when one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responded that no one has sinned, but that “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus healed the blind man because He was sent by God to do His work. Jesus tells His disciples, “while I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Today, we live in Jesus’ light and because of this we must do as Jesus did and care for and support the disabled. Their disabilities are not the result of sins committed. Their disabilities remind us of the work we still need to do for God as we follow the teachings of Jesus. We must offer hope and love to the disabled; if we do not show our love for them as God’s creations, then we are not showing our love for Jesus or God. There are many ways that we can help the disabled. We can offer to bring them to church on Sunday mornings; we can make our churches accessible to wheelchairs. Young people can read passages of the bible to those who are not able to see. We must be tolerant of the disabled and love them as we love those who are not disabled because in God’s eyes we are all the same; we are all His children.
In Luke 14:12-24, Jesus tells the host of the Great Banquet, “when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Those who are your equals, whether in health, social status or wealth can very easily repay you for your kindness by inviting you to a dinner or presenting you with a gift. However, it is better to invite those who can not repay you for your kindness, because only then will your actions truly be unselfish. Helping, supporting and treating the disabled with respect will not only be beneficial to them, it will also bring you a great satisfaction for being a good Christian and doing the work of God.
As believers and followers of Jesus, we can not let our disabilities or the disabilities of others keep us from doing God’s work. Just as Jesus healed those with disabilities, we can work using our strengths, faith and prayers to help others fulfill their tasks and goals. In Exodus 4:10-12, Moses tells God that he is not a good speaker and tried to use his speech disability to get out of his calling. God responded, “who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” God doesn’t allow us to use our weaknesses and disabilities as an excuse from doing His work. We should all continue to follow the teachings of the church and help the disabled so that their abilities will not be limited. In this way, we will be following in the footsteps of Jesus.