This people honors me only with lip-service
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
That is how Jesus' quoting of a passage from Isaiah 29 is reported in the Jerusalem Bible. Jesus goes on to say, "You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions. How ingeniously you get around the commmandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition."
I recently visited a church where they were celebrating work done with orphans in Africa. This church has been instrumental in building and supporting this orphanage. As the slides of beautiful African children were shown in the background, the comment was made, "We are all the same in God's sight. We need to care for these children because we are all the same in God's sight." I couldn't agree more. The work this church is doing is wonderful. They are making a great impact on the lives of children a half a world away.
But what about the people in need in their own back yard? As I looked around the congregation, I saw one man who appeared to have a form of cerebral palsy. But beyond that, he was the only person in the room that I could detect as having any form of disability.
It seems that we get around the commandment of God to preserve our own traditions. In this case, the tradition is to be involved in overseas ministry which is an ourstanding tradition. But the commandment of God says we should also touch our neighbor. Our traditions of overseas ministry may have given us the perspective of less responsibility at home, particularly towards underserved people in our community.
The work I observed that the church was doing with the African orphans was beautiful! But I still wondered why that church could not see the people with disability in their own community.
The traditions of the church really do need to be shaken up because they are getting around the commandment of God. All people are created in God's image and are loved by God. But the "difficult" ones are not in churches. Why are the supposedly easier people to serve the ones who are in church if we really do believe that the commandment of God is to love everyone in the same manner that He loves us. Why are the supposedly easier people to serve the only ones that I could really prove are created in God's image by their presence in a church? I must argue too, that persons with cognitive disabilities are not really harder to serve. Someday the church will discover that.
I am reminded of the passage in Matthew 23, where Jesus is putting the hammer down on the scribes and Pharisees. In regards to tithing, he says in vers 23, "These you should have practiced without neglecting the others." I don't think it is too far out of context to say that without negelcting the important work with African orphans, we should also be working to include persons with disabilities in our communities in our own churches.
You want to buck tradition? Start bringing the retarded people to church.