This article is in response to this article I recently read about a blind person’s experience with the church. I think it is important that we not discount bad experiences with the church. I would never deny this woman’s experiences, but I would like to offer my own perspective. I have written on the topic of healing before, but I know this is an emotionally charged issue, so I feel it is worth writing on again properly.
Your Disability is not The Result of Sin
I am continually surprised at the number of blind people in blogs, facebook posts, etc. who say they have been told their blindness/other disability is a result of their parents’ sin or their own sin. The bible clearly teaches against this in John chapter 9, where Jesus clearly teaches that this man was made blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him (John 9:3 esv). I honestly have never encountered this belief in any of the christian circles I have been in. Perhaps it is more common among charismatics, who I tend to avoid because of their misinterpretation of spiritual gifts and their use of healing to glorify themselves and not God, but that is another post. I do believe that disability in general, as well as all other things that are not perfect in this world, is a result of general sin, but that is far different than saying that a person’s specific disability is part of their specific sin.
Disabled People Can and Should be a Part of the Church
Thankfully, christians have taught me that I am a valuable member of the church. All of us have a role to play in the body of Christ. Certainly that role will differ based on a person’s ability and, more important in most cases, their willingness to accept their role, but everyone can play a part. I recently started teaching our youth group, not as a blind guy teaching them about disability (I haven’t even mentioned that and probably will not unless it comes up in something else I am teaching about) but as a member of the body of Christ who has felt led due to certain circumstances to take on this role. My blindness has not been discussed at all with regard to this issue. People just knew I was willing and able to teach and asked if I would. Certainly there are things with recgard to children’s ministry that I can’t do, supervising game time would not be a good idea for multiple reasons, but everyone has limitations that must be worked around whether disabled or not. Churches can, and need to, incorporate their members with disabilities into the church rather than simply trying to heal them.
There is No Perfect Church because There are No Perfect People
I am not saying that participating in church is always smooth sailing. The church, even good churches, do not always have a great record when it comes to disability inclusiveness. That is because we are all born sinners in need of God’s grace (Romans 3:23) and we all, including the disabled, bring issues from our past and from society at large into the church. But with the unity we have in Christ, we can learn to submit ourselves to Him and work through these issues for the betterment of all. We can, and must, do better. Politely asking a blind person if they would like prayer for healing and/or privately praying on their behalf if you feel you must do so is totally acceptable, virtually kidnapping and forcing them to endure it if they say no is not. And I would suggest not even asking them about this issue unless you know the person well. Just don’t open that can of worms. It is more emotional for many of us than you might think. I hope these points can help ease church involvement for someone out there and thus glorify God in the process. God bless you all.