Disciples of Jesus Befriend the Disabled

But the message is clear: loving God supremely leads to loving people profoundly.

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Update of previous post from 11/27/18

I opened my eyes for the first time in ten weeks. I could see the hospital room I was in but I was unable to speak.

Immediately being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury in my cerebellum, no one had any idea what the ramifications would be to my life. But, the doctors were confident of one thing: I was disabled.

My wife worried that her husband would wake up and be angry with God and doubt his love.

I mean, what other response could her husband have?

Much to her surprise, I was not angry at all; I was grateful. 

My disability did not bring anger and doubt out of my heart, but instead it increased my understanding of God’s goodness, graciousness and the Church’s call to love God and love all people.

Do You Love?

Do you love God? 

Do you love others? 

Does your love for God impact how and who you love?

Today there seems to be no clear origin of love and no clear way to love. Songs, shows, and movies portray love as purely a feeling, usually expressed romantically, and most often expressed conditionally. 

In this day and age it seems we don’t have a problem with loving; but we often have a problem with why, how, and who we love.

As Christians, how is our love of God linked to our love of people? 

And even more specifically, how is our love of God connected to our love of those who are disabled?

The Greatest Commandment

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40

These words from Jesus baffled the Pharisees, with their long lists of acts meant to secure righteousness.

But the message is clear: loving God supremely leads to loving people profoundly.

Does this sound Christianese? Confusing? Too simple to possibly be true?

What this means is that in order to love the people in our lives in a profound way, we must love God supremely. 

If our love for people comes from anything but God, our attempts to love will fall short and end up leaving brokenness and pain. If we don’t understand the origin of love, we will love people the way we perceive to be right, which is different for everyone. With mindsets like this, it’s no surprise that we see an increasing amount of animosity, anger, pain, and division.

To prevent further brokenness, there is a question that must be asked: What is the origin of love?

What is the Origin of Love?

The Bible makes the origin of love clear when it says, “God is love” and that “love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7-8). This means that God is the origin and perfect image of love. 

We also see that loving people is the overflow of the love God has given to his followers. God first loved us and now, because we love him supremely, we can love people profoundly (1 John 4:19).

To give an example of how this looks and works, look to the design of faith and good works. Our good works are an overflow of our faith (James 2:18). 

The same is true of our love for God and our love for people; Our love for people is an overflow of our love of God.

Just as faith does not flow from good works, love for God does not flow from love for people.

The Greatest Beneficiaries

“I firmly believe that the greatest beneficiaries of this relationship are not the people among us who have special needs but those of us who get to be in their company.”

Scott Sauls in Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear

The Greatest Commandment calls God’s children to love God and all people, which includes the pursuit to love and befriend the disabled.

When most able-bodied, non-disabled people think about the value of loving and befriending the disabled, the common thought is that they’re going to make a big difference through their kind-hearted efforts to get to know people who are in need of their love and friendship. 

But that could not be more wrong. 

This undertone of superiority reveals a savior complex – where the disabled are perceived as “less than” or “helpless.” 

That is flawed and sinful. 

Loving and befriending the disabled will serve to benefit you more than they.

Our Brokenness Revealed

As you love and befriend the disabled, you will find yourself realizing we are all broken and needy. It’s been said that the brokenness made visible in the life of someone disabled is a mirror of the inner brokenness we all share. 

All of us have fallen short and sinned against God, so seeing our brokenness kills any hint of superiority in ourselves.

Also, the visible need of the disabled is a direct reflection of our need to be righteous before God. Jesus’ substitutionary atonement makes us righteous before God the Father. His death takes away our deepest need – to be rid of our sin. 

Witnessing Joy and Gratitude

By befriending the disabled, you get a front-row seat to joy in suffering. Having joy in the midst of suffering, for most people, is a hard thing to comprehend, but disabled Christians can offer you unique insight and wisdom through their life experiences. 

The most notable thing you will see in the midst of your friendship is the gratitude that develops from a sincere depth of faith. Disabled Christians are often able to express deep gratitude for the smallest things (breath, consciousness, life itself), everyday, common things (family, friends, work), and the God-given gifts (faith, grace, love, the Church). 

We know all these things are ultimately given by God, but in the life of the disabled you will see a deep and true gratitude to the Giver of all things.

Most importantly, you will see how the lives of the disabled magnify God and his love for his children.

Jesus says in John 10 that he never lets go of his children and nothing can take them away from him.

Disabled believers experience difficult and challenging circumstances, but God says he will never let go of them in the midst of those hard times. His love for his children is perfect, unconditional, and unwavering. God’s love is made visible to you as you see your disabled loved ones and friends battle the brokenness of this world with faith in the promises of God. You will see God’s love in new and astounding ways.

So, if God is the origin of love, and if our love for people comes from an overflow of our love for God, then our love of people must include loving and befriending the disabled.

Do you love God supremely? 

Do you love people profoundly? 

If the answer is still “Yes,” ask yourself if you are loving and befriending the disabled?

Because disciples of Jesus befriend the disabled.

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