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

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Why I need my brother with mental retardation

In the previous post (January 3, 2003) I questioned the spiritual maturity of those who would not know why they would need their cogntively disabled brother in Christ. This question was raised in reference to the 1 Corinthians 12 passage where it is written that those parts of the body which we may think are unimportant are actually absolutely essential. Perhaps you might not know yourself why your cognitively disabled brother in Christ is absolutely essential. Perhaps you might want to call my bluff.

Well, lets think about this in reverse. That is, rather than starting with the disabled brother and thinking about what he might bring as a body member who is absolutely essential, lets first think about what are absolutely essential components of the Christian faith. Absolutely essential components might be servanthood, faith, or love. I think most would agree that love is an absolutely essential component of the Christian faith. After all, the Bible says, "God is love" (1 John 4: 8, 16). Now we wouldn't look at love as being not important, we would see it as being absolutely essential. However, we might look at those parts of the body of Christ who teach us about love, or demonstrate live as not being important, most likely because we don't know what love is.

People with mental retardation, as a group I would say, love others pretty unconditionally. They as a group really do teach me about wat it means to love others by the way that they love others. They are truly excellent examples to me of how I should love my neighbor.

So lets put this together. Persons with mental retardation are thought by many as not important, not a priority for ministry. They are not considered a critical part of the body. However, they may be the best examples to others of what it means to truly love others, to love God. Therefore, as verse 22 states, "On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable..." Why might those parts be indispensible? Because they teach us about God. They teach us about God not because of what they cause us to do for them (although that may be a part of it). But more so, they demonstrate for us the most critical aspect of the Christian faith, and that is love. I need people with mental retardation in my church so I can learn about love by watching them love others. I learn about acceptance by watching the way they accept others. I may reject them, but in a very Godlike manner, they will accept me. I may reject them but in a very Godlike manner, they will love me.

I think the Church has not learned a significant lesson about what love is because partly because they haven't had the parts of the body of Christ which whould demonstrate what love is for them.



Impossibleape said...

Excellent thoughts.

The mystery of of how the last in this world can truly be first in God's Kingdom is revealed in thoughts like this.

I think most people (most leaders of Christrian churches and organizations)would not like to engage you on this topic because you are challenging to the point of being revolutionary.

If we take God's word as the basis for how we organize ourselves and act towards and think about each other we will have to change dramatically in the inner and outer expressions of our faith.

The revolution would be Good News to the outcasts and the despised, but it is frightening to those on the inside.

It is a revolution but it is just what we need.

Thanks for helping to articulate these important points.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff:

Thank you again for your passion, and your straight forwardness, regarding the disabled. Deb and I agree with your assessment of the church, regarding those who's cognitive skills aren't "normal." I have learned so much through Stef's faith in God and how she is with people; accepting of others, forgiving, loving unconditionally, non-judgemental.

I also love how she can raise her hands in worship or clap her hands without being embarrassed. And how she just loves God and knows that He loves her.

The church is really missing out on a unique and wonderful blessing. Would that we all had this child-like faith.

Great post! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I believe that people as a whole are afraid of what is not normal in "their" world. This should not be an excuse to exclude anybody though. I work with many different personalities and I've learn to love a little part of each person. And with learning to love that little part, I've learned to love the whole part of that person. We all need to start to love a little part of the person who is different from us. Start with the way they smile and greet each and every person that they see or the way that they see joy in the simplest of things or even how they light up the faces of those who love them. We need to accept the people who are different from us.
The scripture that you quoted about each body part cannot live without the other is very true. Every person makes the world go round, every person that comes into our lives brings out a quality in us that nobody could do but that certain someone or they leave us with a lesson that they taught us. We need to welcome every person into our lives because we could be missing out on that quality or that important lesson.
It is pretty scary when our own christian community won't accept all of God's children. What are they showing the community? We need to love one another as we love ourselves. At my church there is a little girl who goes to one of the traditional masses, with the older parishioners, she sings her little heart out and enjoys participating in mass, the older participates complain because she sings too loud and off key. Shouldn't we be happy because she wants to celebrate God's word? We need to open our hearts and arms to everyone who wants to celebrate God's word no matter what the case.

Anonymous said...

The love you have inside glows within your words. I have never read so much love and understanding towards humanity.I truly believe that priorities should be given to people with disabilities, as to where they cannot move around to do so, and it depends on the disability. I have had a few "experiences" with Down syndrome, and I have not only enjoy to communicate with them, but I felt the love and happiness they they have to give to us and to this world, "unconditionally". I have chose to become a special eds teacher, and doing this will bring out all the love that has been stored for a reason. It takes love and understanding to intregate (they do not know what they are missing in life), but like its stated to "which extent are we, humanity, willing to love and understand?'. I say a difficult path for some!