I spend a lot of time indoors. There have been days – sometimes one week – when I don’t interact, face-to-face, with someone besides my wife.
My lack of human interaction has been mostly for health reasons, but being disabled makes it difficult to go out and about. On top of the difficulty to get out of the house, I’ve become painfully aware of how hard it is to get able-bodied people to come over and spend time with my family.
[Not so] Fun Fact: According to a study done by The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS), the average American spends 86.9% of their life indoors and 68.7% at home.
(And I’m willing to bet those numbers are much higher for disabled people. Much, much higher.)
The disabled community is often forgotten, ignored, rejected, and neglected. I, for one, have felt and experienced this kind of treatment from strangers and people I know well and these experiences are hurtful. I feel less than, not equal to, or unworthy of love.
But, some people asked “how to love the disabled,” and I came up with three ways to show true and genuine love. So, let’s examine how Jesus loved “the other” in His life…
Speak to the Disabled
In John 4, Jesus has a famous conversation with a Samaritan woman. In this conversation, Jesus talks to her and talks to her tells her His need (a drink), her sin, and the salvation that comes through Him. Jesus spoke to her, someone that His disciples considered “the other.”
She was a double “other”: a Samaritan (Gentile, not of Israel) and a woman (taboo to speak to a woman alone). But, Jesus was not there to please people, so He chose to love this outsider by merely speaking with her.
Now, do the same with the disabled in your life: SPEAK TO THEM. You need them as much as they need you. Love them and give them the chance to show you love too.
Eat with the Disabled
In Matthew 9, Jesus meets Matthew, a tax collector, and immediately calls him to follow Him as a disciple. Then Jesus goes to a table and ate with an ever-growing number of tax collectors and sinners. Jesus ate with them as the Pharisees were shocked and disgusted that He would eat with “the other.”
A tax collector was not liked by anyone because they were known to take more than needed from his own people, so the religious leaders knew them as traitors and thieves. And sinner was the “messed up” people. But, Jesus chose to love the “less than” by having a meal and getting to know them.
Now, do the same with the disabled in your life: EAT WITH THEM. You eat three meals a day, 21 meals per week… eat one with them. Eating together is a simple way to connect and show the love of Christ in your friendship.
Meet the Needs of the Disabled
In John 6, Jesus has a large crowd following Him after He healed a paralyzed man, and then proceeded to converse with the Jews about eternity and how He is doing the works of God while also speaking with the authority given by God the Father. Gentiles (non-Jews) began to follow Him and He immediately responded with another miracle – feeding 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Jesus saw Gentiles following Him, considered “the other” by the Jewish people, and He fed them. He saw their physical need (food) and met that need with no hesitation. It says in verse 6 that He “knew what he was going to do” before the small amount of food was offered, so He knew He would do a miracle and feed them before His disciples even knew there was any food to offer. He knew their need, He knew what He would do, and then did it! He met their need, the needs of “the other.”
So, what do you do to love the disabled? Simple – MEET THEIR NEEDS. They might need food, like in this example, or it might be cleaning, childcare, friendship, a ride somewhere, or Christ-honoring encouragement. The disabled have needs in their lives, and a practical way to love them is by meeting their needs, whatever they might be.
Alright guys, let’s review. Three ways to love the disabled: speak with them, eat with them, and meet their needs.
Which one can you do today? I’d argue all of them, but let’s start small: pick one. Start there and start loving the disabled.
God loves the disabled, do you?
God is good and gracious.