But it isn’t completely silent either.
Jesus showed compassion on the handicapped by healing them. (I struggle as much as my doubting friends regarding why He doesn’t do it more often today.) He also repeatedly affirmed the value of the disabled in His ministry.
In my retelling of one of His parables in this previous post, Jesus shows a preference for the downtrodden of his day, including handicapped individuals. He emphasizes the point by telling his host at a dinner party to invite those who can’t repay him, once more specifically calling out those with disabilities.
One thing He made abundantly clear was that sickness of any kind is not meant to be construed as “God’s punishment” for some wrong committed by its victim. For some odd reason, the Christian church (as well as the predominant culture) has always had a problem with Jesus’s opinion on this matter. While most people would never overtly blame victims of chronic illness for their condition, I still sense that attitude on the part of some. Especially insurance companies.
Jesus is well known as a Teacher of love and forgiveness, so we expect kindness and compassion from Him. What about the “God of the Old Testament” that people often mistakenly distinguish from the new? He’s the one who required one group of the chronically ill, lepers, to walk around crying out, “Unclean!” Surely He was less sympathetic to the disabled.
Well, he also laid out the commands, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind” and “Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.” Kind of a forerunner of the ADA.
One individual in those BC days came out alright in spite of his handicap. A man with the unlikely and unwieldy name of Mephibosheth – just bearing that name is a handicap – was the son of the king’s best friend, who had been killed in one of those ubiquitous Old Testament battles. He’d been left destitute and, as is so often the case with the misfits of our world, forgotten. His handicap as described in classic King James language was, “lame on his feet.” (That could be said of a lot of able-bodied people, and not just politicians.)
When the king, no less than David himself, heard about Mephibosheth, he restored the man’s fortunes and welcomed him as a permanent guest in his home. (In response to David’s largesse, Meph – can I call you Meph? – replied with the rather humble statement, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” One wonders if his disability contributed to an obvious lack of self esteem.)
Wouldn’t it be cool if others followed David’s lead? I don’t mean the part about seducing a married woman and killing her husband – no one’s perfect – but the welcoming of others into our lives and homes regardless of their physical condition.
Hmm… I seem to remember Someone more recently giving the same advice.