By Paul Martin
The wisdom of God can appear like utter folly in a social media world. When we drink the cultural lie that intelligence, good-looks and platforms determine value, we are not much different than the slave masters or Nazis in history who claimed certain human lives are superior to others. God declared the value of every human being the moment He created Adam: the first one in His image and after His like- ness. Thus, one of the great responsibilities of the Christian is to think of and to treat all people with dignity.
Dignity is not the same thing as mere tolerance, nor is dignity ever patronizing. As Paul put it, Christians are called to look at those whom the world judges to be “dispensable” and “unpresentable” and treat them with love. We must realize that our church family is incomplete without them. And that requires receiving from these fellow members just as much as giving to them (see 2 Corinthians 12, especially the end of verse 25).
You know this idea has been understood when a Christian learns God can rebuke, encourage, humble or strengthen them from the lips (whether moving or not) of a physically or cognitively-impaired person, or when a church body welcomes the arrival of a family with a child on the autism spectrum who is prone to randomly shouting out odd things in the service; even more than that family of four with the well-behaved little athletes… And yes, I did say, “even more than.” Again, Paul made it crystal clear the church is to function as that little outpost of heaven on earth, where the “least of these” are given “greater honour.”
This principle of the upside-down kingdom of Jesus was on full display at Muskoka Bible Centre in
February 2020. Teaming up with Guidelight, a U.S.-based ministry for families with childhood disability, MBC provided a 4-day retreat for families raising children with special needs. Staffed by a servant-hearted army of volunteers providing child- care, teaching, activities, counselling and love, these families were able to experience what it means to be fully-contributing members of the body. The hope in this was not to love just some families; it was to reorient a lot of hearts to see the wisdom of God.
Perhaps you have heard of Corrie Ten Boom, best known for surviving a German concentration camp and writing The Hiding Place. What you may not know is that Corrie spent some of her younger years serving the Lord by taking the gospel to neglected, disabled folks within her community. Much later in life, she wrote of her experiences at that time and what the Lord had taught her through these new friends.
Kareltje was a little boy twelve years old. He had blue eyes and curly hair. He was one of a large, poor family, and his father was cruel to him because Kareltje was [cognitively disabled]. He listened as I told the story of the disciples giving food to five thousand people. As the five loaves and two fishes passed from Jesus’ hand to theirs, the bread and fish became sufficient to feed the multitude.
Suddenly Kareltje jumped up, and swinging his arms around him, cried, “There is enough! There is plenty, plenty for everyone! Just take, take as much as you like. There is enough. There is plenty!”
I wished every child of God rejoiced as Kareltje did about the plenty that we have, when taking all from Jesus’ hands and passing on to others (Corrie Ten Boom, Common Sense Not Needed).
Our almighty God often chooses to display His omnipotence through those we consider the weak or worthless. The mighty warrior, David, figured this out.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger (Psalm 8:1–2).
The glorious and majestic God uses the gurgles and babbles of babies to crush violent spiritual foes. Just let that thought sink in for a moment.
Jesus was not just being sentimental when He said, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). He knew that He would later teach Paul that His “strength is perfected in weak- ness” because we can learn so much through the eyes and hearts of little children. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to our churches is a surging revival among the aged, disabled, marginalized and weak within our community. We may find it much more appealing to spend our time witnessing to others rather than scrolling through social media.
Paul Martin is the Senior Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. After the Lord kindly brought disability into their family, Paul and Susan began working with organizations like Guidelight in order to serve families raising children with special needs. He has spoken on this topic widely and has a heart to see the church grow in her love for “the least of these.”