“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Cor 5:16, NRSV)
When you encounter Christ, the world changes. People seem different. Situations take on new meanings. The impossible become possible. Life is simply different. It’s like you’ve been sitting in a 3-D movie, and suddenly you realize that you never put your glasses on. It’s the equivalent of walking into another world rich with insights and ideas and sights and sounds that you had never imagined. As Billy Abraham would say, you’ve crossed a threshold. An encounter with Christ, mediated by the Holy Spirit, changes your perspective.
You can, however, be in the church for a long time and never have a real encounter with Christ.
As I reflect on the relationship between the church and people with disabilities, I wonder…. How many of us even begin to see people–all people–according to the Spirit? In other words, has God really changed our perspective, or do we still perceive people according to a human point of view? If the latter, then we are incapable of engaging in this kind of ministry. We might do helpful things for people, but ministry is about more than being helpful. It is work that brings heaven and earth together. It is the facilitation of an encounter with the holy. Until God changes our perspective and we see other people according to the Spirit, we are incapable of identifying the kinds of actions and attitudes after which we should seek in ministry with these sisters and brothers. We’re like the poor souls in Plato’s cave, incapable of perceiving anything except shadows, unable to experience the fullness of the reality that God has created. In the words of the philosophers, we have a serious epistemic limitation.
Social justice will not ever be–indeed, it cannot ever be–a sufficient goal for the Church. In my tradition, The United Methodist Church, we often speak and act as if social justice is the beginning and end of our life together. This is a wrongheaded notion. For the Church to pursue social justice without seeking earnestly after the transformation of hearts and minds is a confusion of our purpose and mission. If we Christians really want to change the world, we need to ask God to change our perspective, to give us spiritual vision, make us to see no longer as humans see.