When I’m training volunteers, talking to new families, advocating for our ministry within the church, or speaking at conferences, these are the eight verses I use to emphasize the calling that each church has to include all people.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
What I love: that Christ saw the man first, that those who had been spending time closely with Christ still didn’t have a right understanding of theology and disability, that Christ makes it clear that disability is not a punishment for sin, and that God has a purpose in disability
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
What I love: that people who know Christ are called to act differently and unexpectedly, that God is inviting us to have a party that includes people of all walks of life, that the Christian life is marked by radical hospitality, and that we are called to serve without expectation of reciprocation
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
What I love: that God creates all life purposefully, that life begins in the womb, and that he has a plan for each of us
But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
What I love: that Christ welcomes all, that he rebukes the disciples for keeping the children away, and that he esteems child-like faith over adult intellect
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
What I love: that people with disabilities are part of the whole creation, that he doesn’t say “except for those who don’t look or behave or think or move or feel like you do,” and that God means all when he says all the world.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
What I love: that every part of the body of Christ matters, that we’re all in this together no matter how strong or weak we seem, and that no part is considered less than another but rather our judgment is flawed because we think some “seem to be weaker” and some parts “we think less honorable”
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
What I love: that God reveals a theological mystery here, taking credit for disability (i.e. he doesn’t just allow it, he authors it, even if the purposes aren’t clear to us)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
What I love: that in this verse and all others, “all” includes people with disabilities… and the gospel applies to them as well as me, because all of us are sinners in need of a Savior…and the one I don’t use often.
I won’t paste the entire passage here, but this is a oft-quoted “least of these” story told by Christ. I don’t have a problem with others using it, but I don’t usually use it in special needs ministry trainings. Why? Well, I find that my listeners immediately identify as the ministers (us) and consider people with special needs to be the least (them). Considering that all of us are broken by sin and all – with and without disabilities – gifted to contribute to the body of Christ (see the 1 Corinthians passage above), it is often unhelpful to cast ourselves into separate camps. Instead of always ministering to “them,” how about “us” and “them” acknowledge together that we’re all the least of these and join together to worship the King of kings?
What are your favorites? Did I leave off any verse(s) that you find useful as a disability ministry leader or a special needs parent?
In addition to serving as a Key Ministry Church Consultant, Shannon Dingle is a co-founder of the Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.
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