We have made remarkable progress in overcoming the marginalization of people based on color and ethnic background – but there is still a group that the church and society at large have not seen as full members of God’s family: those with physical or mental disabilities.
In many parts of the world, those who are handicapped are “throw away people” as they have little economic benefit. Often, the only people who pay attention to them are believers who understand that God made all men and women in His image, that He does not have a plan A or a plan B for His people but only a plan A. And that includes living up to our full potential, dignity as a full member of His body, living out the unique role He designed for each of us (Ephesians 2:10) and contributing something unique to God’s work on earth.
Only a very small minority of churches in the United States are handicap accessible. Think of the statement that makes to one who is and shows up! Only a small minority of congregations have ministries designed to meet the needs of those with disabilities leaving families with disabled kids to struggle alone with the care and challenges that go into raising them. For many of us the people group that make up those with physical or mental challenges are a “hidden group” just like others in the past were not on our radar screen. It is a subtle overlooking of a whole segment of people who matter to God.
Those congregations who have gone out of their way to invite, welcome and design both facilities and programs for this forgotten group quickly find grateful families coming through their doors! And there is a vibrancy and beauty to those congregations because in learning to love people who others often marginalize and ignore, their hearts become more like Gods and they realize that their new friends have as much to give them as they have to give – if not more. Some of the most happy, loving and radiant Christ followers I have known are those who have mental impairment. Their simple, joyful faith is what God longs for all of us to have. Those with physical disabilities have had to trust God in ways many of us have not and often have a tenacity that is absent from those whose life is easier. Again, we have much to learn.
God designed all people in His image, not some people! As image bearers, there are no people that should be hidden from our view or the ministry of the church. And unlike our world’s evaluation, in God’s economy everyone matters, has something to contribute and is equal in the site of God and therefore should be in our sight as well.