Ableism – God Sneaking Up on Me Again

S (Scripture): Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men the next day, and after he had purified himself along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them. 27 When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!” 29 (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.) 30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut.

O (Observation): Accusations and threats.  The people of God see Paul and know that he has taught about the errors the people of God have made.  Paul wishes to welcome Gentiles into God’s Kingdom, and yet God’s own people see this as a threat, not a joy.  

The Gospel has become “adhering to the Law,” rather than being in awe of God’s grace as God attempts to expand the people’s understanding of grace and mercy.  

A (Application):  When will we learn?   At what point do we stop and check our prejudices?   

Why do people dislike it when we label something as a prejudice?  

I guess I’m not disturbed by the fact that we have prejudices (for we see dimly this side of Jesus’ return).   I’m more disturbed by our lack of acknowledging our prejudices – especially when they are pointed out to us!

I’ve recently listened to a podcast by The Liturgists on the topic of “Ableism.”   Ableism is the acknowledgement of discrimination against those with disabilities (physical and intellectual).   Granted, my time with this subject is somewhat limited, but I have worked with folks who have disabilities: People bound to wheelchairs from birth, blind people, folks with Down syndrome and those on the autism spectrum.

In each case, I found that I had to confront my preconceived notions of their “inferiority” as compared to my “superiority.”   I hear from my friends who are close to those with disabilities about how much joy their disabled children and family members bring into their lives. And in many cases, the changes and the frustrations that they have (and still do) encounter can be draining for them.  It’s a mixed bag, but in the end, many of my friends in these situations say that while their physical and emotional stamina can be drained, their hearts are full. 

We react harshly in situations that befuddle us.  We don’t like to venture into world’s that are not of our own making or understanding.  But what I’ve learned from friends close to those who are disabled is that God is working in and through them everyday.  That those with disabilities are just as much children of God as those without disabilities.  That we are called to love all of our neighbors. 

Those who trapped Paul and caused an uproar did so because Paul threatened their way of life and their traditions.  Paul was a threat, because the people of the Church were missing the point that God’s grace made them all clean, not their adherence to the Law.  So, too, do we miss the point when we look down on or feel sorry for those with disabilities.  

Instead of feeling sorry for them, perhaps we can treat them as normal folks.  Perhaps we can do our best to talk with the parents or family members of those with disabilities to see how they are doing.  To see if they need some rest, or simply someone to talk to or befriend them.  In this way, the Gospel is lived out: reaching out to our neighbor, with grace and mercy.  

Let’s think less about changing abilities and more about changing the world.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, open my eyes to the beauty of your creation.  Amen. 


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