Implications for the Church
What implications does this have for the church? In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us that the members of the body of Christ who are “unpresentable” are necessary for the body. Surely this includes and encompasses the most vulnerable among us, those with lifelong disabilities. It is the duty of the church not only to tolerate such people in her midst, but to embrace and welcome them and their families. How can the church do this?
Due to relative size or resources, some churches may feel ill-equipped to have a special-needs ministry. The good news is you don’t need one. In fact, there is a danger to having a special-needs ministry. Unless a church is very careful, it could end up creating a special-needs “leper colony,” a place where such people are ministered to separately, away from the rest of the body. This would be the very opposite of what Paul envisions when he speaks of such people being a necessary part of the body.
The first thing that the church (and that means you) can do is to warmly welcome families with a member who has severe cognitive disabilities. Be sure to welcome not only the family, but also the individual person. Often people with disabilities are politely ignored. Most people, no matter how impaired, can sense when they are welcomed even if they can’t respond. Even if you suspect they can’t understand your gestures of friendship, make them anyway. Jesus said, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40).
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