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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Social healing

The gospels have many accounts of people with various infirmities or disabilities coming to Jesus and receiving healing.  This is actually an evidence of him being who he claimed to be.  Does this type of healing continue to occur today?  I am sure it does, and I am not talking about the high profile evangelists making a lot of money from supposedly healing people.  To its detriment, the church has at times approached people with various disabilities with only a "ministry" of healing.  I have also know people who will never go to a church again because of the church's overemphasis on their need for healing, and the church's linking healing with the disabled person's faith or lack thereof.  I have discussed this elsewhere in this blog, but I will only say that if your perspective on disability is that the only answer, the only truly Christian response to disability is healing, then you need to meet a man named Paul who wrote a lot of the Bible, who apparently had a disability and although he asked God for healing was definitely not healed.

But I think there is a great ministry of "healing" that the church can play in the lives of every person who experiences a disability and also a healing in the lives of families of persons with disabilities.

Dr. Hans Reinders in his excellent book, The Future of the Disabled in Liberal Society, talks about the manner in which society addresses down's syndrome.  Basically he discusses the fact that typically, the suffering experienced by a person with down's syndrome is not the result of the syndrome, it is the result of society's treatment of the person who has the syndrome.  He goes on to indicate that we address a sociological issue with a medical procedure.  That is, I experience discrimination because of my disability, so society's solution is to kill me (through abortion) not to address society's wrong attitudes about me or my disability.  This, however, is the place where the church can have a particular impactful healing ministry.

If I am experiencing suffering because of the social consequences of my disability, then the church through its efforts can "cure" me of that suffering through what they do.  I will still have my disability, however, there is the potential that I will feel much less of the social sting of my disability should the church step up and be what the church was intended to be to me.  
So the church first of all comes to me and invites me in.  
The church then welcomes me and is glad that I am there.  
The church gives me opportunities to have responsibilities as that empowers me as a member of the church.  
The church talks about people like me, people who face the issues I face, from the pulpit, particularly issues related to my disability in order to help me and those around me.  
The church embraces me as a regular member, including me in all the social activities of the church.  
The church socially softens to overlook many of the socially impacting aspects of my disability such as social skills, other behaviors over which I may not have control.

This overlooking is not an uncomfortable, don't know what to do kind of overlooking.  This reminds me of times where I have seen people with severe intellectual disabilities doing ridiculous things in church like literally pouring the entire sugar bowl into their coffee cup.  As they did so, those in the environment looked on helplessly.  Whereas if someone they knew, or one of their children for that matter did such a thing they would correct them.  Correct them, not reject them.  I have a friend who due to a hearing impairment, speaks in a very loud voice during the sermon at church.  If the person wants to say something to me, like "Can you help me get to the bathroom?" it is going to be said in a loud voice.  I could try as hard as I wanted to get the person to not speak in a loud voice but it will never happen.  So I as part of the environment soften, the person doesn't feel condemned, and social healing occurs.  In every way possible, I as a disabled person, am a regular member of the church, the social network of the church, the religious training of the church.  The church interacts with me in a manner that understands that my disability will impact my life, but they first see me for me.  Together we work through the challenges and inconveniences that my disability presents.

I believe the end result of such a relationship with a church is healing.  It is the healing of the social issues which are typically many of the biggest issues I may face as a result of having a disability.  I may or may not be healed physically, however, many of my social interactions are in fact healed.



Randall said...

I concur whole-heartedly! We as the church and as Christians should look at everyone through the love of Christ. 1st Samuel 16:7 (paraphrase) tells us that man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart. I believe this is what we are called to do, in the greatest commandments (paraphrase) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and the second is like it to love your neighbor as yourself"

to look at all people, with the Love of Christ.

Additionally, I think it is important to note, Jesus recognized the person before the disability and often healed in that same order. for example Luke 5:17-26 the paraplegic is lowered through the roof, and Jesus says to him "your sins are forgiven" for which is challenged by the Pharisees to which he responds which is easier to say your sins are forgiven to say get up and walk? Then tell the man, get up take your mat and walk. Which the man does. (again paraphrased)

Jesus looked past the man's external disabilities and saw to his heart. We should strive to do the same.

Jeff McNair said...

Great observation, Randall.
"Jesus recognized the person before the disability and often healed in that same order"
I am reminded also of the passage where Jesus heals the blind man (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaes is shouting, "Jesus son of David have mercy on me." Jesus does not focus on the disability by responding, "Hello blind man whose eyes do not work, would you like me to make your disabled eyes better?" No, beautifully he responds "What do you want me to do for you?" Which goes right along with your point, Randall.

Julie said...

Wow, Randall and Dr. McNair, it' as if you have read my mind and were able to put words to my thoughts and feelings. I've not been able to find these kinds of words because I've been so caught up in anger with the current false healing trends that have been going on this summer.

I like in Luke 14 where the poor, the lame, and the blind are welcomed to the table- and not for healing. Just because they belong there.

Thank you for posting this. I will take it and ponder and try to find my own words.

Pilgrim said...


Anonymous said...

Like Julie said, Luke 14 gives the church and the congregation a great view of how to treat people with disabilities. We are to be inviting and loving to people with disabilities and act the same way to them as if Billy Graham wanted to go to our home church. I believe that if word got out that Billy Graham wanted to go to my home church, people of the congregation who saw him would be inviting him to great events in order to get him plugged into the church. We are all the same in God’s eyes and there is no reason that we shouldn’t open our hearts and open our arms for people who feel like outcasts of the society. Dr. Hans Reinders explains in his book that people with disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome, might feel rejected and feel like an outcaste of society because we treat them that way. It is sad that we make people with Down’s syndrome feel like an outcaste and we hardly do anything to fix our mistakes, such as, making them a part of a Christian community. The idea of church healing has been completely misused and misguided. I do believe healing can take place but not like we see on TV where a pastor pushes the person and they fall down unconscious. How is this glorifying God? God never healed Paul of his disability because God knew he could use Paul whether he had the disability or not. And for someone to think that someone has a disability due to sin is appalling. We are all the same in God’s eyes and if we all received the correct punishment for our sins, we would all be in hell. One of the happiest people I know has Down’s syndrome and I have seen God use him in amazing ways.

Zach said...

I have been exploring why Christians with Disabilities often do not receive healing on my blog and would appreciate your input.

Jeff McNair said...

Looks like a very interesting blog. Wrote a comment. Thanks for the invite!