Disabilities and the Bible: Misunderstanding God’s Word

unconditional loveI love the beauty of God’s love for us, all of us, equally and unconditionally. He sacrificed his only son in a brutal death so that all of us may be saved and live forever with Him. All of us. All we have to do is acknowledge this great sacrifice, invite Him in, and follow HIs ways. He does not care about how fast we can run, how famous we may or may not be, what kind of car we drive, how much money we have, where we live, what sins are in our past, or what language we speak. There are no limits, including for those who are weak, frail, or who have a physical or mental impairment. We are all HIs children, invited to live forever with the King Himself.

I read two blog posts in the past two days about what the Bible says about physical and mental disabilities, and both drew from Leviticus 21:15-23. Was this by chance? Maybe, but I am compelled by the Lord to respond by writing this post.

Leviticus 21:15-23 (NIV) says “The Lord said to Moses, 17 Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defects to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.’”

“The Disabled and Handicapped Through the Lense of Scripture” acknowledges that God accepts those who are disabled, but writes “This was not meant as an insult; rather, it had to do with the fact that the priest must match as closely as possible the perfect God he served.” The post goes on to discuss being abandoned because of his disability. The other post I read, ”Disability–The Bible and Perfection,” the other post I recently ran across, uses the same set of verses from Leviticus to support her belief that a physical or mental impairment prevents them from serving God, period.

Both of these posts are examples of the importance of knowing God’s word–studying it, praying about it, and seeking counsel from their pastors. Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV) says “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Reading the entire chapter or even book, as well as referenced verses from other parts of the Bible, are essential. The Bible does not specifically list every possible dilemma humans could have and does not address each one by name; however, the entire Bible, God’s word, along with truly knowing Christ and having a strong, intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and our guide the Holy Spirit, provides us with all of the knowledge we need for understanding Him and His truth. He will reveal it to believers who faithfully seek Him. Having a study Bible, and regular prayer, as well as quiet time spent listening to Him with your heart, are also critical for understanding God’s word more fully, in the manner in which He intended. The dangers of reading a few verses and taking them out of context are high, for the reader is now vulnerable to believing a lie and influencing others. Comments on one of the posts indicate that there are those who were influenced, and they now need our prayers. God knew this would happen and warned us to beware of false teachers. Colossians 2:8 tells us to be vigilant, watching for those who will create a philosophy that is not according to His teachings. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.” (NIV). We see it all around us every day, and the internet is a superhighway down which it travels at high speed.

To clarify the Scripture in question, these verses in Leviticus are part of God’s instructions to Moses regarding His rules for priesthood.  The limitations described were not to limit those with physical and mental impairments to never being able to serve God, nor were they intended to communicate that they were less in God’s eyes or that God was abandoning them.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knew the limitations of humans, and knew that the demands of fulfilling the duties of the priesthood and sharing Him with people.  God wanted only those who were capable, physically and cognitively, to serve as priests to prevent situations in which duties were not properly fulfilled, His word was not properly shared, or, because humans can be limited in areas of acceptance of others, people were afraid or skeptical. God was responding to all of our imperfections, and these verses illustrate just how imperfect we all are. The answer is to know God and His Word, and He knew that there were barriers to that being fulfilled, so He removed them.

Take a moment to view this video of a young man with disabilities serving our Lord.

Autistic 10-Year-Old Sings “Open the Eyes of My Heart”

I urge those with physical or mental impairments to seek refuge in God. 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul recognized that, no matter what challenges we endure, we find strength through Jesus.  Paul did not specify or limit what hardships he was talking about, because Jesus does not limit the situations in which He will provide the strength to endure. Paul did not say “except for mental illness and disabilities.” In any and all tribulations, when we call upon the Lord, He will give us the strength and the hope we need, and the blessings for weathering the storm according to His Will are boundless.

Not only does the Lord want us to accept and love one another regardless of physical impairment, mental illness, or outward appearance, but he wants us to live it. 1 John 3:18 says “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” In other words, saying that we love all of our brothers and sisters, especially those with impairments is all well and good, but what are the fruits of this proclamation?

I would like to share two verses that speak clearly about how those with physical and mental impairments are regarded by God:

Acts 20:35 (NIV) ”In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”  This verse is deeply implanted in my heart, and reminds me that we are to work not just to provide for ourselves, but to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. A God who does not love those who are weak, frail, or disabled would not have so clearly provided for their care and for them to be a priority.

Galations 6:2 (NIV) “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  God gave us His only son in human form to teach us and to model for us how we are to live. To carry each other’s burdens is a broad directive, and I encourage you to meditate on this more.  For today, I will state simply that this verse reinforces God’s directive throughout Scripture to love one another, including our enemies, who have their own kinds of impairments, and to do for them as we would have done for us.  God has always protected those who are weaker, and He instructed those who are stronger to be their keepers.  Again, such a loving God would not place those who are weaker in such high regard if they were considered less than those who are considered “normal.” He paid special attention to instructing us on exactly how they should be cared for and treated.

I urge you to release the ties on God’s grace, limiting Him no further.  Embrace His Word, imprint it on your hearts, and enjoy our loving and merciful Heavenly Father.

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