In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
Is disability part of the corruption that has happened when sin entered the flesh? Or maybe disability is something God uses to punish individuals who have sinned? Maybe disability is acceptable to God and even purposed by God? These are some questions that many of us don’t have answers to, but might I suggest that the answer is in the bible, if we bother to look for it.
When we see a person with a severe disability, it is hard to fathom how a loving God can allow such cruelty to exist. Most Christians look at disability as something that needs healing, something that needs the supernatural touch of Jesus. They are the poor captives of their own body that Christ has come to set free (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2). Afterall, much of Jesus’ ministry involved causing the blind to see and making the lame to walk (Matthew 11:4-6). Surely disability is not in God’s perfect plan, it should be filed under undesirable circumstances like miscarriage and natural disasters. In God’s design, disability and impairments are ruled out of His perfect and holy kingdom (Leviticus 21:17-23, 22:22).
The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
Exodus 4;11 tells us in plain and simple words that God intentionally makes individuals deaf, mute and blind. God was not speaking in general terms, the sentence “Who gave human beings their mouths?” is better translated into “Who put a mouth into a man?” (NET notes). God is involved in the creation of every person such that He puts each mouth into each individual. He didn’t just create the mould for the factory and left the machine to run. In His sovereignty, He makes some with mouths that don’t speak, ears that don’t hear and eyes that don’t see, right along with the ones that do. Knowing that, we cannot say that disability is part of the corruption that happened on all flesh when sin came in. God is pleased to do what He does and to create what He creates.
His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Does God do so because He knows the future of the person and the future sin and pre-punished the person for it? Or maybe it is the sin of the parents that has caused it? Is it the direct result of sin? John 4:2-3 is prescriptive to the blind man whom Jesus was healing, but the principle behind this teaching is that disability is not necessarily because of sin. It corrects this myopic thinking that was prevalent in that time and even now. We are quick to point to the cause of the disability – drugs, alcohol, abortion, etc, but God motive is more important than the cause. The cause doesn’t give meaning to the disability, God’s motive does. Jesus isn’t trivialising the man’s years of suffering as a blind man, He is magnifying God’s grand purpose.
The man’s blindness was ordained by God “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”, Jesus then goes on to heal the man. Wait a minute, that means God’s purpose for everyone who has a disability is to be healed? To answer this question, we need to consider the entire context. The end goal of Jesus’ work is to testify to His divinity and sonship; the goal of such a public display is so that the Pharisees would see and believe (John 5:36, 6:28-29, 10:25, 37-38). Now in this specific instance, God’s work was healing because it testifies undeniably to Jesus’ divinity to the Pharisees (John 9:30-33). This does not necessarily mean that healing is the way God will function all of the time, there is more than one way for a person with a disability to testify to the risen Christ or glorify God:
- Moses was not healed of his speech impairment, he was empowered despite of it, but he was still used mightily (Exodus 4:10; Acts 7:22).
- Israel walked with a limp after his wrestling match with God and was still the father of God’s nation (Genesis 32:25, 31).
- Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian writer of all time and great Gentile missionary, had a thorn in his flesh that most theologians agree is a physical ailment of some sort (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
The fact is, able or not, we are all created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and we are all crafted with an individual touch. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” and we are His handiwork, which He calls “wonderful”. We are not to see a person with disability and think that God has made a mistake or that sin has got the upper hand. God is sovereign and deliberate in creation (Romans 9:20-21). What we deem as ugly and undesirable, God has deemed beautiful, wonderful and God glorifying.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
We look at Leviticus 21 and 22 through the eyes of Jesus, who is our perfect Great High Priest and the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 7:24-27). After fulfilling the Law, Jesus didn’t hide His scars, instead He presented Himself with scars intact (John 20:24-28). Our Jesus identifies with our disability with His scars. He could have chosen to get rid of them, but He does not. His scars bear the proof and power of His sacrifice – it pleases Him to have those scars! We need not be fearful of whether our sacrifice with a disability is good enough, if Jesus is good enough, we are all good enough (Romans 12:1).
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your 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.”
It is sad that while we as a church are greatly concerned with orphans, widows and the poor (James 1:27; Matthew 19:21), people with disabilities are often overlooked. My church is not disability friendly, we don’t have wheelchair ramps, accessible toilets or Braille. Heck, even the colours and fonts of our slides, handouts and fliers are not friendly for people with visual impairments.
But things can change.
Let us be the people who invites them to our banquet.