“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.”
I have a weak arm from overusing it at a young age. Over the years, I needed treatment for my arm more than any other part of my body. Yet my arm remains a very indispensable and important part of my body. Understanding my body helps me to appreciate Paul’s use of the body as a metaphor that everyone in the church, regardless of specific giftedness or weakness, is indispensable to the whole.
When we have people with disabilities in our church, it is undeniable that we may need to provide special accommodations. But instead of seeing this as a burden, Paul encourages us to approach people affected by disabilities with special modesty, recognizing that they also have gifts to offer to the body.
For individuals with significant disabilities, it is not always easy to see how they can be contributing members of the body. John Knight gives us a good example on his blog.¹ John’s son, Paul, has significant developmental disabilities. He is also completely blind. At an adult age, Paul functions as an 18-month-old child. He is known to sing praises to God at the oddest of moments such as in the grocery store or at a restaurant. His singing has captured the attention of people as they recognized that he was praising God. In his own unique way, Paul was witnessing for Christ!
Behind this story is the beauty of a loving and accepting church that has been supporting John’s family. Growing up in this environment, Paul learned the praise songs, but more importantly, he cultivated the desire to praise God.
May the Lord help us to see all people, regardless of their abilities, as blessings to the body of Christ, all for his glory!
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: 1 CORINTHIANS 12:22–26
1. What do you think it means to “treat with special honour” those among us who have special needs? What is the difference between this and treating them with pity?
2. When someone in your church who has special needs says or does something you are uncomfortable with, how have you reacted? How could you respond next time, in light of 1 Corinthians 12:22–23?
Cynthia Tam is Associate Pastor at Midtown Alliance Church in Toronto, ON. She has a strong desire to serve people with disabilities in the community. Cynthia has founded three support ministries for families with children who have special needs in different churches. She is also co-founder and president of Village Eulogia (www.villageeulogia.com), a Christian charity and community for families with children who have special needs.
If you are interested in networking with other Alliance families who are involved in or just beginning a Disabilities Ministry with their church, you can contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also find helpful information and resources about Alliance Disability Ministries from the Alliance Justice and Compassion website here: http://www.justiceandcompassion.com/canada-initiatives/disability-ministries