Many times in the New Testament, we see Jesus caring about the blind, the paralyzed, and others with physical disabilities (for example, Matthew 9:2 and 9:27–29). Following Christ’s footsteps, discuss the Christian attitude toward disabled people. Alexander Graham Bell, Ludwig van Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Walt Disney—these are familiar, talented people who each had a disability. If these people lived during the time of Jesus, they would have been cast out as sinners.
The Original Sin that was committed by Adam and Eve brought about many things from the devil, including death and disability. The mindset of the people during Jesus’ time was different. In John 9:2-3, Jesus’ disciples asked,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
St. Matrona of Moscow is an example of a person born blind who God used to display His works. Jesus came to teach the world how to live in order to gain eternal salvation. So what did He teach us about the disabled?
Everyone is familiar with His instruction in Mark 12:31 to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Essentially, our
Christian attitude is to love all, including the disabled.
How can we serve and care for the disabled? Pray. As St. Seraphim of Sarov, who suffered from dropsy, said,
our Lord Jesus Christ is the “True Physician” of our souls and bodies.
A relative of mine was diagnosed with a crippling disease. His wife has pushed him out of her and his kids’ lives
and his parents are caring for him. This situation illustrates that we must also pray for the caregivers and for those who abandon the disabled.
Jesus spent much time visiting and healing the disabled. In Matthew 9:12, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who
need a doctor, but the sick.” However, Jesus did not find physical and mental infirmities as constituting true sickness. Rather, He found those with souls wounded by passions such as pride, self-love, and greed disabled.
One example of this is The Rich Man and Lazarus. In this Bible story, the rich man ended up going to Hell and
the beggar, Lazarus, who was covered in sores and only asked the rich man for food, ended up going to Heaven. In
John 9:39, Jesus said,
For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Apparently, the rich man, who was physically healthy, was blind in Jesus’ view because he ignored Lazarus
when he could have helped him. Hence, Jesus taught us that we should help the disabled when presented with the opportunity, and in doing so, through accepting Christ and doing His good works, we are helping our salvation. In Luke 14:13-14, while dining in the home of a Pharisee, Jesus said,
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and
you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Disabilities do not hinder salvation but are sometimes used by God to strengthen individuals. Accordingly,
those disabled must never have self-pity but remember Philippians 4:13: “[We] can do everything through him
who gives [us] strength.”
We all, disabled or not, must strive for eternal salvation and try to keep our souls healthy by following these three
steps: Purification – freeing one’s self from evil and living a pure life; Illumination – spiritual enlightenment and knowledge of one’s faith; and Theosis – becoming one with God. These can be achieved by following the teachings of our Orthodox Church, which our Church Fathers refer to as a “Hospital” for our wounded souls.
In conclusion, some disabilities are obvious while others are not revealed. I challenge all of us to follow James
1:22: “be doers of the word, and not hearers only”. Let us pray for God to guide us to those with disabilities who are in need of prayers and friendship. As St. Paul said in Galatians 6:2, we must “[c]arry each other’s burdens, and in this way [we] will fulfill the law of Christ.