“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Disability ministry and traditions

I often mention Mark 7 when I speak to groups about disability ministry. The passage highlights how traditions can get in the way of obeying the commands of God. The two most important commands being to love God and to love your neighbor. When we are confronted with having to love our neighbor or keep our traditions, too often we and our religious leaders are like the religious leaders Jesus confronted in that we hold to traditions and eschew the commands of God. It is interesting how Jesus points out three ways we avoid the commands of God, for our purposes, the command to love your neighbor.
In Mark 7:8 he says,
"For you ignore God's law and substitute you own tradition."
Our first dodge is to act like we don't know what we are supposed to do. To ignore implies that you know something is there but you pretend like it isn't. So we know we are to love all our neighbors, including those with impairments, but we ignore it.
In Mark 7:9,
"Then he said, 'You skillfully sidestep God's law in order to hold on to your own tradition." 
When we can't ignore our responsibilities anymore as they begin to intrude upon us perhaps both intellectually and physically, we come up with ways to sidestep our responsibilities to love our neighbor. So clever ways of minimizing the demands placed upon us like segregated ministries, or those that meet on different days when no one is around are ways we can sidestep loving our neighbor.
Finally in Mark 7:13 Jesus says,
"And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others." 
So finally, when we can't ignore or sidestep, we just cancel the word of God.
In a recent trip to the Philippines, I was working with a man who works with pastors. He told me of an occasion where he was talking to a pastor about including people with disabilities in the church. The pastor's response was, "I know we should be doing this but we aren't going to." That is the place where some leaders have ended up. When they can no longer ignore or sidestep, they just decide to cancel the word.
As I have come to understand this section a bit more, it has helped me to move leaders almost in a progression from canceling to sidestepping to ignoring, to doing what they should do to love their neighbor.



Lauren Gayou said...

Thank you for the post. It is important to recognize that often times people with disabilities are not treated with the love that God has commanded us to treat our neighbors with. It is unfortunate that this absence of love is occurring. I cannot speak for the populous, but in addition to sidestepping and cancelling God's word, I believe there are two reasons this takes place. The two additional factors I believe are contributing to this epidemic are (1)lack of awareness and (2)selfishness.

Although many people claim to be "religious", most do not study the word of God regularly. They have their own interpretation of what is right and good. This causes them to focus on those things rather than focusing on God's specific instructions directing us how to live life.

Additionally, because we live in a fast paced world, I believe it is common for individuals to narrow their focus based upon a personal perspective/ agenda. I can say that when I prioritize my day or week, I think about my kids needs first, and then my own.

I appreciate you taking the time to bring up this point. I recognize your passion for advocating for those living with disabilities. Hearing your interaction with the pastor in the Philippines is eye opening. It is sad, to say the least, that a church would take that stance on including people with disabilities into their congregation. My hope is that with the knowledge of this practice a fire would be ignited in many hearts. I will purposefully consider people with disabilities as I go out into the world teaching my own students.

Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Fabiola Rivas said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic and bringing light to a topic that is often times ignored. I enjoyed reading and learning from what you had to say about disability ministry and the traditions that go hand in hand with each other. As Christians, we are commanded to love one and another, and the Word does not say "love one another but if you don't like them then you don't have to love them." It does not say that or include any exceptions. Rather, we are commanded to love through the tough circumstances and love the people that are even more difficult to love. As sinners, we pick and choose who we want to love and if there is someone who is different than us or shares different beliefs, we automatically choose to distance ourselves from them and not love. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us about this population and the challenges that follow up with it. Your heart for people and especially people with disabilities is so evident.

Fabiola Rivas

Anonymous said...

This is a great point I think that religious leaders do side step the idea of inclusion because it would take work and it shouldn't be that way. We are all Gods children and all have rights to His word. Along with the idea of tradition overstepping God I feel that as we reach closer to Christmas and how I have even lost sight of what its really about. I think that everyone could benefit from a little reflection and prayer.