Changing attitudes about differences

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Changing attitudes about differences

The email was to the point. “The student services department at Crown Point Christian is putting on a chapel on March 21. The theme is friendship and accepting those who are different.”

They wanted a speaker to help them spread the message. However, I would only have 10 minutes, and I knew a thorough presentation of The 5 Stages would be too much for that time. So I decided to do my fallback: talk about Ephesians 2:10.

This verse has proven to my failsafe way to Biblically ground attitudes toward people who have disabilities. Ephesians 2:10 says:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Usually I tell people about four things I notice, and that one of the things I notice is not even there.

What are they?

Well, the three things I notice are:

  1. If we are God’s handwork, that means We were made on purpose.
  2. If we were made in Christ Jesus to do good works, then We were made for a purpose.
  3. And if those good works were prepared by God in advance for us to do, then Our purpose is not optional.

But then there’s one more thing that I notice that’s not there.

There is no asterisk. There’s no asterisk that exempts or absolves people with disabilities from the calling God has placed on their lives.

He has created each of us on purpose, for a purpose, and that purpose is not optional, whether we are disabled, poor, the same as others, different from others, rich, ethnically different, powerful, weak, old, young, sick, healthy, living in a poor mountain village in Peru, or living in Abu Dhabi.

I told the Crown Point middle schoolers that whether or not they were the same as others, or different from others, didn’t really matter. What mattered was how we treated others: like image-bearers of God each created to answer His call.

Crown Point Christian School, in Crown Point Indiana, is a ministry partner of Elim Christian Services, birthplace and inspiration for The 5 Stages.



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Disability is Not a Blessing, But it Also is Not a Curse

I cringed when I heard him say it.

“I think of my child’s disability as a blessing. He is truly a blessing from God.”

How can you argue with that? Of course, children are a blessing from God. Every Christian ever has agreed with that sentiment, except for those occasions when we’re just not that particularly grateful for the child.

But this man was speaking about his son who was born with Down Syndrome. You don’t expect the parent of a child with special needs to say that about their child. You expect to hear things like:

  • I’m so depressed that my child is not normal.
  • Why would God do this to us?

These sentiments, after all, make sense to us who live in a normal world where disability is simply an anomaly, an abnormality. Disability is not normal, to our thinking. It is wrong.

Stephanie Hubach talks about this in her wonderful book “Same Lake, Different Boat.” She calls this point of view the ‘disability is an abnormal part of an abnormal world’ perspective. People who think of disability this way are no different from the disciples of Jesus Christ who asked “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

But Jesus replies that this did not happen because of a sin. It was not a curse.

But neither was it a blessing. But some folks think it is. They will say that God has blessed parents of a child with special needs with a very special gift, that God must love them indeed. Parents themselves will conclude that their child comes from God, and if God doesn’t make mistakes, then this must be another blessing.

Hubach refers to this mindset as the ‘disability is a normal part of a normal world’ perspective. It’s a sensible approach to the reality of life with a disability. Let’s look at the glass as half-full, and see God’s blessings in everything.

But life with a disability is far different. It is not a blessing, it is difficult. It is challenging and frustrating. It is a source of bitterness, sadness, and depression for many people.

So if disabilities are not a curse, and they are not a blessing, then what are they?

Reality in a Broken World

Disabilities are a reality in a broken world. Disability, to paraphrase Hubach one more time, is an abnormal part of an abnormal world. The world is not as it is supposed to be. It is broken, fractured, in pain. It is mired in sin, it is abnormal.

Disability reflects this abnormality. Disability includes weakness, difficulty, pain, isolation, and sadness. It is a natural part of a broken world, not a result of particular sin, but a symptom of its general existence.

Disability is all these things and it is a real part of a broken world, not a curse or a blessing from God.

But it does present an opportunity, an opportunity to bless or to curse.

You can curse people with disabilities by using words that isolate them, by maintaining an attitude of avoidance or pity.

Or you can bless. You can bless people who have been affected by disabilities: parents, friends, siblings, the persons themselves. You can participate in God’s real work, which is not to curse people with disabilities, or to “bless” someone with disabling conditions or mental illnesses.

No, God’s work is to redeem, and we are invited to participate in that work today. We can redeem our attitudes, we can redeem relationships, we can redeem situations and we can start today.

What You Can Do

So what can you do to participate in redemptive work in the lives of people affected by disabilities?

You can introduce yourself to someone who is affected by disability, whether it’s a man in a wheelchair, a woman who struggles with depression, or a family member of that person.

Today, that’s the only step we’re asking you to take. It’s a huge step, though – not just for you, but for the person you are reaching out to. Just remember, your job is not to see the disability as a blessing or a curse, but as another opportunity for God to redeem and to build His kingdom.