Behold, the North American Church: simultaneously known as loving and hateful. Nearly every Christian I know has a painful experience that left them feeling rejected, unloved, or held to an impossible standard. Most also have tales of loving, authentic people who loved them well and pulled up a chair for them at the Holy Table.
Which Bible character comes to mind when I mention distaste and hatred for the disabled?
Pharisees, perhaps? Those guys seemed to hate everyone and kept impossible standards. Maybe the Old Testament Israelites with endless rules who wouldn’t let anyone unclean into the temple? Certainly.
The character I think of may surprise you. King David. Yep, the King who was a man after God’s own heart. What am I talking about? In 2 Samuel when David is about to set up shop as king, the Jebusites deterred him by putting the blind and lame at the gate so he could not enter without defiling himself. 2 Samuel 5:8 reads: And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David‘s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”
Woah. A man after God’s own heart HATES the lame and blind in his SOUL? Those verses pierce my heart. I admit that I bring up the laundry list of David’s other sins– pride, adultery, murder, ignoring his daughter’s rape… this man is supposed to be after God’s own heart?! How on Earth?!
The answer is David’s sinful perspectives always change. He turns his eyes and heart to the Lord, repents and transforms. Sin requires a Savior, and David is delivered from his hateful prejudices. As God often does, he uses relationships and those David cared for to change his heart. David’s closest friend, confidant and brother-in-law was Jonathan. When King Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David is deeply grieved. Years later, David asks if there are any of Jonathan’s descendants that he can bless. Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth is brought into the palace to meet David… at which time David realizes Mephibosheth was dropped and both feet were crippled when he was five. David could have given him gifts or even let his family live in the palace, but his heart changed. He commanded his leading servant, Ziba who was to inherit,
“And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.”
2 Samuel 9:13: So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.
Somehow David’s deep love for Mephibosheth overpowered his bitterness, hatred and past actions for the lame. He saw a PERSON more than he saw the disability. The King pulled up a permanent chair at the Royal Table for someone who was once kept from his house. How remarkable that two blind men cry out to Jesus, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us!”
I read the Bible with a different perspective now that my two sons have disabilities. 3,000 years ago, I would not EVER be able to enter the temple to worship the God who made my children as he saw fit- in his own image yet different.
The Church and I have had a tumultuous relationship. Several years ago I stopped being able to come to church and worship freely. I left discouraged and dejected, firmly grasping tiny hands and leaving before worship ended. I learned why 90% of people with a disability in their family do not attend church, even when they want to come. They feel like the church cannot handle our children.
Listen, Jesus spent over half of his earthly ministry with ‘the disabled’. It is time for those who are differently made to have someone pull up a chair at the table. Ziba was to inherit, but instead served Miphibosheth until his death, when Ziba was given the inheritance he expected. Church, we can be Zibas. We can scoot over at the royal table, prepare and share our blessings and honor the disabled who still believe they aren’t able to enter the King’s House.
My sons’ most influential disability is the same as mine: A SINFUL NATURE in need of the Savior.
For this reason, I am now dedicated to launching, developing and strengthening Inclusive Ministries wherever God takes our family. My sons won’t be kept from the King’s House the Lord’s table because of their disabilities if I can help it. They are fearfully and wonderfully made in his image. WE must transform how the church engages so that our hearts can be transformed and turned toward Christ together. Jesus commanded us to go out and bring people to him.
There is a place at the King’s Table for us all. Pull up a chair and pass the salt. We have a harvest to bring in.