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This is a devotional from Pastor Timothy Burdick, Minister of Abilities for Friday Study Ministries:

God and Disability Rights

As a pastor who is blind myself, I am strongly in favor of disability rights. As seen in the Bible, God loves every human being regardless of status, and tells us that we should advocate for the rights of others. One example of this can be found in Verses 8-9 of Proverbs 31 - "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

If you study the life of Jesus, you’ll see that He constantly upheld the rights of individuals that others ignored. So now that we have looked at one of many passages in the Old Testament, let’s examine the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 -

An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replied, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" Notice that the person who accosted Jesus was very religious. We can see that he felt that his entrance into eternal life depended on himself. This man was trying to build a bridge to God by his own good works, which has been the problem with religion throughout the centuries. But Jesus steered the man back to the Scriptures by asking him to answer his own question. Jesus asked Him what the Scriptures said. In Verse 27, the man answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Deuteronomy 6:5) "and Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) In Verse 28 we see that Jesus responded, "You have answered correctly," continuing, "Do this and you will live."

In this verse, we see that Jesus commended the man for his answer and told him that if he would obey God, he would have life. Verse 29 continues, “But he wanted to justify himself.” He asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" You have only to look to the above verse to see that the statement of Christ wasn’t good enough for the man. I am afraid that many of us in the Christian church have been much like this lawyer as he asked this second question. Wanting to justify ourselves before God rather than just accepting His pardon, we also ask, “who is my neighbor?” Many times I am sad to say that we in the church get into dialogues rather than reaching out towards people with God’s love. When Jesus was asked who should be considered a "neighbor," He responded this way in Verse 30 - Jesus said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away leaving him half dead.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a mountainous region, so the thieves would have hidden there easily. Jesus doesn’t tell us anything about the man who fell among these robbers, but He does give us a few facts about the crime. From what He says, we can paint a mental picture. The man must have been lying by the roadside, naked, as the bandits took his clothes from him. He most likely would have been cold, frightened, and embarrassed. Next we know that he was bleeding, as Jesus tells us that the thieves beat the man, and then the Samaritan came along to put medicine and bandages on his wounds. Verse 31 – “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.”

Verse 32 - “So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Just like these two figures, many times Christians today talk a lot, but we say very little with our actions. Many times when we see someone who is not only unlike us, but someone who might upset the status quo, causing us to go out of our way, we pass by them on the other side of the road. Verse 33 - “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” The Samaritan did not have anything like the status of the priest or even the Levite. The priest would have been a revered man. When someone is self-absorbed and caught up in his own importance, God can no longer use him to the extent that He would have. But even more sadly, many times like the priest and Levite in this story, we Christians don’t even notice when someone is in need. Furthermore, many times we are so wrapped up in our own tasks, that we don’t notice when God’s hand seems to draw back from our own efforts, our ministries.

The Levite, who passed by in the story, would have been hated by some, but not as much as this Samaritan. The Samaritan was seen as a half-breed, an outcast to be looked down upon with distain. But it was the Samaritan, as we all know, who not only saw the man’s plight, but had pity and compassion on him. Verse 34 - ”He went to him and bandaged his wounds, and poured on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn and took care of him." Verse 35 - “The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the inn keeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'”

In contrast to the other men, there is a humility in the Samaritan’s life which stands out. Inferred in this story is that the Samaritan not only took care of the man by paying for the inn, but all night he personally watched over him. But it doesn’t stop there. The Samaritan voiced his concerns in both actions and words to the keeper of the inn.

Verse 36 - "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Notice that Jesus answers the lawyer’s question with a question. Verse 37 - ”The expert in the Law" replied, "The one who had mercy on him." I’m sure that answering Christ’s question was an experience the lawyer never forgot, and the same question is being asked of us today.

Jesus told the lawyer, "Go and do likewise." Jesus has told us all in this parable to show mercy to others. In another place he said, ”Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” His statement was a reference to Hosea 6:6 - “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”

In all of these passages, I believe that we can make a clear reference to the disability community as we try to uphold the rights of our neighbor. For a long time it seems to me, religion has told us to stay out of ministry, to not get too vocal, whereas God tells us to speak up. Many times, society also wants to “keep us in our place,” whereas God wants to put us in a new and better place.

Many people see only our weakness, whereas God sees our potential. Look at what He told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 - "He said to me,My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”

In the opinion of the priest, Levite and lawyer, the Samaritan was a nobody; but he has been talked about for thousands of years. Who made a difference here? I believe that we in the disability community are much like that Samaritan. We, too, can make a difference in our world. Let me explain. It says in the Bible that God does not show favoritism. He does not value one person above another. God does not view you in reference to a disability, for about this He says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, 'do not consider his appearance or his height'" and goes on to say about the good looking, tall man, “for I rejected him.” The Lord does not look at things the way man does. We have looked at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

So then, we need to continue speaking out in care and concern for others. We need to stop by the wayside when nobody else will, for in doing so, we are showing forth the mercy that God speaks of. But instead of looking at our weaknesses, we need to look at the strength which we possess in Christ. For man will tell you what you can’t do, but God will tell you what you can.

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Remember Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me."

Contact: Pastor Timothy Howard Burdick

Visit my website at: www.mynvm.org

You can join a discussion/prayer/Bible study with Pastor Timothy on the telephone each week on Thursday evenings at 6 PM Arizona time for his Bible study, by dialing 1.218.936.7979 (US) and entering access code number 139535.

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