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By Pastor Randy Shepard
In John 9, Jesus and his disciples passed a man who had been blind from birth and one of the disciples asked Jesus “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’s answer not only flipped the first century Jewish cultural view of people who live with disabilities upside down, it flipped my life upside down one warm summer night in 1996. Jesus said “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; but he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Jesus’s answer flipped the Jewish cultural view of people living with disabilities, because until Jesus said that (and, let’s be honest, even after) it was always assumed disabilities were the result of sin. This made them social pariahs, because it was believed that God had rejected all those who lived with disabilities. Jesus said just the opposite. God not only does not reject those who live with disabilities, but He can and will used them to display His GOOD works.. Jesus’s answer flipped my life upside down on that warm summer evening in 1996 I was searching for a reason as to why would allow me to have Cerebral Palsy due to a traumatic birth. I remember thinking God, you want to display your works in me? And, then I said “Okay, Lord, thy will be done.” I have spent the last twenty-six years trying to allow God to use my Cerebral Palsy to speak to others. I now see my Cerebral Palsy as a powerful ministry tool.
Of course, Jesus went on to heal the man in John 9, but God as yet to heal my Cerebral Palsy. However, my Cerebral Palsy is a ministry tool, because I can tell people how the doctors told my parents that I would never walk or talk, but God made me into a pastor who rarely shuts up and walks just fine. It is a powerful ministry tool because I can tell people that I rely on God every day to help me walk, talk, eat, get dress, and just about every other mundane task that most people take for granted. But my Cerebral Palsy is also a powerful ministry tool, because I can bring attention to those who live with disabilities who all to often are still forced to the margins of society.
October is Disability Awareness Month. Do you know that just over 25% of Americans live with a disability? That means just over 50% of families have someone who lives with a disability. Despite half of our society being affected by a disability, those of us who live with a disability are often pushed to the margins of society. But Jesus often reached on to those on the margins of society. I bet if you prayed about it, and starting asking questions, you would find an individual or family living with a disability who needs to be reminded that God loves them and that they are a part of God’s family.
The first step in reaching those who live in the margins of society is seeing them. So, I am challenging the community of Chrisman to see those on the margins of society. I am challenging this community to see those living with disabilities, and reach out to them with the hands of Christ. Part of what it means to follow Jesus is to reach out to those on the margins of society, and empower them to put the works of God on display. Who can you reach out to and empower though Christ today?