Conversing more on #disabilityinchurch has me pondering this section of I Corinthians 12. Do I believe this was put in the Bible specifically to address disabilities in church? No. But the analogy here is poignant, and a corrective to a mindset that excludes our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I know this is a rather long quote, but please read it. . .
For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason [c]any the less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?
But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it.
But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
One of the things which jumps out to me is, “the members of the body which seem to be weaker. . . which we deem less honorable. . .” It is no surprise that both the broader culture and even within the church, those with disabilities are often deemed to be “lesser” or weaker people. (Just consider the push for the abortion of babies with disabilities for a dramatic way this plays out in the broader culture.)
Yes, our brothers and sisters with disabilities may be weaker in some senses, and really do need our support (physically, emotionally, spiritually.) “[I]f one member suffers, all members suffer with it. . .” Can we share in their suffering? Or work to alleviate it?
At the same time, many of these same brothers and sisters are strong in the faith. God has used their weakness for them to be strong in Him, as I’ve seen in many people in my life (especially older saints who have walked with the Lord for years.) On the other hand, we shouldn’t assume that people are strong in the Lord simply because they have suffered — one person shared with me that people only saw her physical disability and neglected care for her soul.
Interestingly, this section of Scripture is just prior to the famous “love chapter” in the Bible. Perhaps that is also a reminder of how to treat one another in the Body of Christ?
I don’t believe any one local manifestation of the Body of Christ is going to be able to remove all barriers, accommodate all people at all stages of life. But I do believe we can learn and grow and serve one another in Christ, especially those who God puts in our paths.