Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Sin of Partiality

Four hundred million disabled people live in the world's developing countries. All too often their lives go hand in hand with poverty, isolation and despair. As the world marks the International Day of Disabled Persons today, we need to heed those who are not listened to within their societies, whose disabilities are often used against them to keep them from going to school, finding work or being visible in their own neighborhoods. A blind woman in Eastern Europe, with an unmistakable tone of hopelessness, captures the harsh reality of living with disability in this way: "We depend on everyone; no one wants us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of." (from

It may not be obvious to an American, but for anyone who has been overseas, it is devestatinglhy obvious that "disability" and "poverty" are synonymous. Which puts a whole new (but I believe, biblical) spin on James 2:1-13. I have pasted the passage below, highlighting the word "poor." As you read it, put the word "disabled" in instead of poor and keep in mind that James wrote this letter to the Church.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

The Bible gives us several examples of blind and lame beggars. Because the poor in Jesus day were often crippled or blind or sick, then I don't think it's too much of a stretch to read into the text above that Christ is commanding us to warmly embrace the disabled into the Church. And not out of pity or obligation, but out of recognition that the Lord has a purpose for their lives and they have gifts that are a vital contribution to the Church.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home