You may be surprised what people deem as secular society is not where I’ve experienced the most discrimination as a person who is differently abled. I experienced many dark years of not being able to get a ministry job due to discriminating views of my speech and body impediment. I’ve received hurtful patronizing remarks about my disability by well meaning Christians. I’ve been hurt by prejudices and discrimination inside God’s holy church far more than I have been as an evangelist among lost people daily. In twenty five years of ministry, here are three roots why I’ve experienced the most discrimination in God’s Church:
1. Insecurity of one’s own weaknesses.
A common theme that pastors can pick up on quickly is how humans judge others based on their own deep insecurities or struggles with the same issue. We all have weaknesses. Typically these are a source of insecurity. You’ll be equipped through my debut book, Weak Is The New Strong: God’s Power In You (Releasing 8-11-20) with insight into how weaknesses no longer need to be a reason for insecurity, but a conduit of God’s power. The Apostle Paul describes it best:
“I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 TPT)
I’ve had Christians refer to my disability oddly as a disease or as something that is negative due to the fact that they’re not comfortable with their own weaknesses. When weaknesses remain an insecurity, humans (even in churches) have prejudices against others for what they deem as a weakness.
2. Church culture does not allow vulnerability.
I’m curious, how often have you seen church leaders share weaknesses from the pulpit? If it’s not often, then how is God’s church being equipped to be transparent about weaknesses in everyday life. When I speak or do discipleship, whoever I’m with starts to share about their own weaknesses. Why? It’s because I’m open with them about mine, the ones that can and can not be seen. Today, I shared with someone I invest in that I’m weak in the area of finding worth in my career rather than Christ. This person is an actor in Hollywood, and he shared how he struggles with the same thing! Then we both got to celebrate how our sole satisfaction needs to be in Christ as the Apostle Paul shares:
” . . . and in Him you have been made complete.” (Colossians 2:10 NASB)
3. Disciples confuse patronization with compassion.
I’ve had many Christians “minister” to me by voluntarily sharing how tough it would be to be in a wheelchair or have a speech impediment. Often, these sentiments come with I am either not going through a rough time whatsoever or when I may have been struggling with something that has nothing to do with my apparent physical challenge (such as feeling lonely). I bet each person who is reading this has felt lonely, and like me, it is not always linked to any physical challenge you may have. Ministering based on shallow physical observations is the opposite of compassion. After a quiet time, Jesus looked out to the crowd, and the Word says:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NLT)
Confusion and helplessness is only seen with eyes focused not on the physical state of a person but the heart and soul.
Jesus frees His people from a wounded identity into his own image. As people are discipled into this reality and healed of past wounds, we’ll see discrimination in God’s Holy Church dissipate, since those abled and differently abled will look just like Jesus.
“And we no longer see each other in our former state—Jew or non-Jew, rich or poor, male or female (may I add abled or differtly abled)—because we’re all one through our union with Jesus Christ with no distinction between us.” (Galatians 3:28 TPT)
It’s time for the church to see the differently-abled with no distinction. The first step is to acknowledge our own weaknesses and let them be our greatest strength. Then value will be found in the differently abled—the same value we all possess in Jesus.