By Deaconess Sharon McCart, Chair, Cal-Pac DisAbility Ministries Task Force, and Vice Chair, DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church
In Genesis 1:27a, we read, “God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them….” There is no separate category for “disability” in the Creation Story. Humanity is not divided into “us” and “them” by our differences on any basis. No one is more valuable or better or more human than anyone else. This is the scriptural foundation we begin with when we say that “Love Lives Here.”
As we move through scripture, we read that Moses is “slow of tongue” and that David welcomes Mephibosheth, who lost the use of his legs in a childhood accident, at his table permanently. Jacob becomes Israel when his hip is put out of joint by a being whom he wrestles all night long, a new name to go along with his apparently permanent disability.
There are other Old Testament stories about people with disabilities, or who might have had disabilities based on their characteristics. God calls people with many different limitations to work for justice and compassion throughout the Old Testament.
In the Gospels, we find many accounts of people with disabilities. In the first ten chapters of the Gospel according to Mark, we read eleven stories of Jesus healing people with disabilities. Jesus does not take away people’s disabilities because those disabilities render them not worthy of love. It is just the opposite. He heals them because he loves them. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16, CEB) Out of love, he does what it takes to restore them fully to community, the community that has placed them on the margins because of their disabilities.
While we cannot take away disabilities like Jesus can, we can bring people on the margins of our society into our community. We can invite them to the banquet of God’s abundant love, as Jesus talks about in the parable of the Great Banquet. In that parable, the master of the house is disappointed when all the invited guests cannot come, and he sends his servants out to fill the table with people who are poor and disabled, bringing them in from the city streets , the highways and back alleys (Luke 14:16-24, CEB).
This restoration to society is not physical healing or a cure. It is spiritual healing. It is meeting the deep need we all have of belonging. This is a need that too many people with disabilities never find a way to fill.
Jesus knew that need. He recognized that need in others, particularly in people with disabilities. Jesus never passed by people with disabilities. He noticed. He stopped and spoke with them. He met their needs. He treated them as a whole person, created by and loved by God.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), making scripture alive and observable. Jesus was also the embodiment of grace and love. When Jesus walked the earth in human flesh, wherever he went, Love Lived There. Since we are followers of Jesus, wherever we walk, Love will Live Here if we continue to look for his footsteps!
For further information, watch our AC2014 DisAbility Ministries Presentation