“Will you come and talk to our church about disability ministry? We have two women who live in a group home who come to our church. One of our families has been really involved in their lives, but we feel like maybe we as a church need to do more.” This is the kind of request that I love to receive. It made me stop and think. How does disability ministry fit into the life of a church? Is it really necessary? Is is a separate ministry? Does it require a big budget? Or is it really a matter of the heart? What would I say to this small church?
My thoughts turned to Luke 14. Jesus is at a banquet at a prominent Jewish leader’s home. He watches how people are jockeying for position. He notices who they have invited. Then he tells them, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Jesus knows that our natural tendency is to invite people who are like us or could help our status in someway. Like in , “Did you know that I had lunch with so and so?” He knows our penchant for reciprocity and prestige. He knows how we are drawn to human “heroes” and can build our ministries around them. Yet his command is so counter-cultural. He tells us to invite those who can’t repay us and those who are generally marginalized by society. People who may not be able to do anything for us. People who may not be able to contribute in a significant way to our ministry. Instead Jesus says that God himself will repay us when we invite those who are poor and have disabilities.
And Jesus refers to that time when God will repay in Matthew 25:31-46.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
The “righteous” didn’t realize that their acts of kindness and hospitality were actually done TO God. Do we see Jesus in those whom society rejects? Or do we just see challenges? A drain on our resources? Listen to what John Knight, Director of Donor Relationships at Desiring God Ministries and father of a son with significant disabilities, has to say on this topic. He gave the following talk at Inclusion Fusion 2012. ”For the Sake of Your Own Joy, Why your Church Should Want Families Like Mine.”" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lZmanyoY94
After I spoke at this small church, a man stood up and said, “I went to pick up these two women in their group home and bring them to church. While I was there another woman said, “Can I come, too.” I wasn’t prepared to do that, but I said I would be back. She replied, ” Don’t forget me. ” Tears started to well up in his eyes and he said, “I don’t want to forget her.”
This church is on its way to ministering to people with disabilities. Eyes are being opened and hearts are being transformed. Jesus has commanded us to invite those who have disabilities into our midst. Let’s not let that command get “lost.”