“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.
One thought on “Why Churchgoers Must (Really) Change”
Labeling someone as disabled or seeing them with a disability, to me, is prideful. Who defines or determines what “able” or “ability” is? Seeing them through God’s eyes, we MUST use His definition. If we use a human definition then it will always be flawed because we are flawed. I remember attending a charismatic church during college days (oh, so many years ago!) and watching a mentally challenged young man worship. I thought someone needed to calm him down and “make him behave”. BUT God . . . . always BUT God, right? But God gave this young man a word for the body that was clearly from God and appropriate and amazing. The word was for the body but it IMMENSELY affected me! I was humbled, broken and in need of forgiveness for seeing him through my flawed finite view and mind. I want to see like He sees, love like He loves, show grace like He does, extend mercy like He does. And, I will always be learning how to do that until I see Him face to face.
If you make it to Aldersgate you’ll meet an 18 year old young man named Pedr from Wales who God speaks and sings through often. Pedr prays for people all the time; sometimes they don’t understand what he says, but God does. Pedr has Downs. I hope you can connect with him.
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