Re reading the Bible from the perspective of the persons with Disabilities, Matthew 15. In the Matthew 15 text Jesus disables the Pharisees by calling them blind. For Jesus, disability was in the spirit and not physical.
The Jews refused to touch the dead bodies or did not eat the meat of the dead animal that died from natural causes; because they were scared with a superstition that they will be possessed with some evil spirit.
And with this they were in other way afraid to be disabled as they thought any person with disability is living with sin and possessed by demons. This understanding infuriated Jesus who saw them as the ones disabled; and pointed out that what comes out of their mouth defiles them and not what goes in.
The next Jesus heals was the Canaanite woman’s (Matthew 15) daughter in the district of tyre and Sidon; who was definitely not possessed by any demon; but was maybe a child with disability whom the society has again labelled as demoniac.
The Canaanite survivors were driven northward into Phoenicia during the Israelite conquest and they were the most morally despised among the Israel’s enemy.
The Canaanite woman’s cry was ignored by Jesus. He told her that he was to heal only the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus purposely ignored her cries not because she was a Canaanite; but because he wanted the others to also hear her cries pleading for that child whom the society has called demoniac.
It shows about how the society’s attitude towards the people with disabilities not only affects the victim but also affects their family or anybody who dearly cares for them. Just one ill outlook of the society disables the family of the victim as a whole.
Jesus wanted the world to listen to that cry, pain, sorrow and suffering of the mother of the child and also demonstrated how we choose to ignore those cries and simply move on living our lives.
She came out of the same coasts and Jesus crossed the boundary to heal her and with this healing came the healing of the whole Gentile society.
Church Response and reflection
Jesus has always put the centre stage among the oppressed that includes the poor, people with disabilities, the marginalized groups.
Jesus Christ says these wonderful words very often, “What do you want me to do for you?” Just as Christ has taught us; our response should be opinionated with the response based on what do they want.
Do they want help, acceptance or healing or anything else? When we look at Jesus’ activities in the gospels during his time; in those days people with disability were totally excluded from society and from the temple.
If we are to look around our surroundings places, we would find that a lot of people living with disabilities. As Christians or as being a part of a church; the focus should not only be preaching about accepting the people with disability but also work on certain effects like:
Re reading the bible from the perspectives of the people with disabilities
a) We can read the biblical text and also preach from them being inclusive with inclusive interpretation of how Jesus dealt with the person with disabilities.
b) We can de construct the social norms of the society and try to construct a new social culture which is inclusive of the persons with disability. Without deconstruction we cannot re structure. Deconstruction is important.
c) Inclusion of students with disability in theological seminaries. For this to occur there is a continuing need to promote understanding of the humanity and the abilities of the person so that rather than being “written off” and forgotten they are empowered to function effectively as contributing members of the society.
d) The church can stand with the person with disabilities and voice up to the government and fight for their rights and their welfare.
e) Being involved with the societal programme of the government that is working towards the welfare of the people with disabilities.
f) The church should have counselors to counsel the people with disabilities and also their family.
g) Building a ramp in the altar for communion for all.
Jesus healed disability (Matthew 15)
When Jesus went about asking “what do you want me to do for you?” the answer is obvious and simple to anyone living with disability. They want to be healed and cured. Jesus did not simply go around healing and curing people to show his power.
He did that because he knew that is what they wanted the most. But even with knowing, he always asked what he can do for them. Jesus by healing and curing them have set an example of how the church should also work forward in the curing of the people with disabilities.
Because someone without disabilities can never understand what it is to be disabled; and amidst accepting them as who they are, there is also joy in seeing, hearing, walking or talking.
The ministry of the church should further extend to curing just as Jesus had taught us. So also we should broaden our minds; and indulge in making the world understand that disability is different from sin.
In the olden times, this notion came into being from the perspective that it would have been very challenging as it is now; to support a disabled member of the family; and this disability would have been viewed as a blight or punishment from God.
Our major focus should be on the fact that God has a purpose for each and every one of us; and disability doesn’t change that. God has created us with special gifts and talents; and we are all equally special in God’s eyes.
Our response is always about the called normal people deciding what can we do? Or what should we do?
How do we treat them or accept them? But as Christians and realising that sometimes curing is not possible. There are people among us living with disability who are never cured and can never be cured
However, it is society as a whole that needs healing; healing to be more accepting and welcoming to people living with disabilities. To welcome people living with disabilities is to be inclusive; to open our hearts and minds to new possibilities and ways of doing things.
We need to change our obsession with being ‘able-bodied’; and ‘able minded’ to realising that the world around us is made up of diverse people; with diverse abilities and limitations as well.
Our societies and communities are called to be healed and to be accepting of the whole diversity of life. Let us rethink disability.