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

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Biblical language

Dr. Stanley Hauerwas writes of how groups define themselves by their narrative. The Bible is obviously the narrative for Christians and in the Bible, one can hardly read the Gospels in particular without bumping into people with disabilities. In many occasions, Jesus heals them. Dr. Bob Pietsch has written how the Jewish leaders needed only have a man with a “withered hand” in a room of people to “trip up” Jesus. That is, they knew He would see the man and then that He would heal him. Jesus on another occasion sends out his disciples, and later the 70, with the power to heal people with all types of infirmities (Luke 9). When in prison, John is told that the proof that Jesus is the Messiah is that the sick and disabled are healed (Luke 7:23).

Jesus and other biblical writers change how we think about things. They redefine words as illustrated by the following.
Foolish – one who hears words but doesn’t put them into practice (Matthew 7:26)
Good – one who bears fruit (Matthew 7:17)
Servant – we are all to be servants of all (Mark 9:35)
Wisdom – the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10)
Strength – is Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Poor – poor in the eyes of the world but rich in faith (James 5)
Humble – those who are lifted up (Luke 1:52)
We are also instructed to, give to the needy (Matthew 6:1-4), now worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25), and seek first the kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Each of the above establish criteria for followers that nearly all may participate in. These radical definitions provide access for the inclusion of nearly all people. In an effort to include all, Paul goes through a list of persons who would typically be excluded, ultimately going so far as to state that God chooses, “the things that are not” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Interestingly, this perspective and the above definitions benefit persons with disabilities.

In spite of this language, this narrative, such perspective changes are not reflected in many churches. These environments can have an effect positively or negatively on God’s ability to minister within their midst. For example, in Matthew 13:58, it states that Jesus was unable to do miracles among them due to their lack of faith. While on the contrary, when the paralytic is lowered through the roof for Jesus to heal in Luke 5:17, the Bible says that when Jesus saw “their” faith, including the faith of those who lowered the man, he replied “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”


1 comment:

Impossibleape said...

This whole question of narrative and language is very important.

Until people have words to speak about a object (or a subject) they often can not see the object (or subject).
The bible does mostly make intellectually disabled people invivisble. I think there is only one reference to comforting the feeble minded in scripture.

What you are doing to expand the exisitng language of the bible to include the intellectually challenged is great and so very needed.
I am trying to to do the same by simply explaining that the rejected and the suffering are Christ in our midst as Mtt 25 teaches and who is more rejected than the intellectually challenged. For the most part even people with other disablities don't want to associate with them. I have started a group in our church to encourage the inclusion of people with disabilities but the few people with physical disabilities who attend (infrequently)don't want to participate for fear that others will think them retarded.. Some have even said they dont want to associate with other disabled people, even if only physically disabled, because they have been taught to believe for the miracle and so until it comes they don't have a ministry or a life in the church. They do show up for healing servies once in a while. So much lost time and opportunity to serve Jesus by serving other disabled people but the teaching and the language has corrupted them and made them unneccessarily useless.