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Disability and the Gospel

Challenging, cuts to the heart and timely are only a few words to describe Michael Beates' book entitled Disability and the Gospel. With the heart of a pastor and the touch of a seasoned theologian, Beates writes with a passion for seeing the church deal rightly with those with disabilities and this includes dealing with our own hearts.

In the opening chapter on What the Old Testament Teaches About Disabilities, Beates makes a significant statement regarding Jacob by saying, " was a physical wound that was meant to remind him of his spirutal brokenness" (28). Jacob's hip being out of place was instrumental in his relying on God's strength for help each day. Later on Beates says, "And in fact, those God uses the most he breaks, in some manner, for his sovereign purposes" (28). There might not be any answer for why a certain has a disability, but God uses that disability to reveal his purpose and plan. This kind of thing that Beates speaks of reminds me of the passages in the NT that speak of finding strength in weakness. Beates goes onto speak later of Samson, who trusted in his own strength and the might of his muscles. Nevertheless, Samson was brought low in weakness like many rise in the church with their gifts and then all is stripped away in a matter of seconds. Whatever the great fall that people find themselves in, God uses their weakness to display his glory (35).

Aruging conter-culturally against the notion that people are only as valuable as the amount they can contribute to society, Beates writes, "Historic Christian faith, responsible for the advent of hospitals, has always held that the appopriate, godly, and Christian response to suffering, injury, and deprivation, is the care" (112). Rather than count up the costs of someone's hospital stay and so hasta la vista, the Christian has the responsibility to care without limits. Why is this so importatn? As Beates hints at time and time again, our value and worth is not tied foundationally to something intrinsic but is bestowed extrinsically by God, bearing his image in our bodies. Therefore, matters of value, including in the discussion of disability should not ultimately be grounded in what a person can contribute or bring to society but in the intricate worth of every person being the creative handiwork of God.

One provocative point that shouldn't be missed in the book is Beates' insistence that often we see people with disabilities as "other" people. Yet, as he points out, "they are far more like us than they are unlike us" (132). The segregation mentality of those people over there and my people here cuts out the heart of gospel for a faith based upon privlege and position. People with disabilities are more like us than we realize because they struggle with sin as we do, they deal with all sorts of relationship issues as well. Furthermore, they delight in many of the good things that God has given us in the same way we do. If we have a belief that every person bears God's image and that grace is God's word to broken people through Jesus, than this belief should flow directly into our love for those with disabilities.

I thought this was an amazing book and an eye opener as well. In being more aware of those with autism around my area, I am beginning to see my sin being exposed of not caring for these brothers and sisters, but also a desire in my own heart to get to know them. I think this book will go a long way in furthering the discussion about ministering in weakness, helping those with disabilities, and applying God's grace to situations of all kinds.

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy of this book.


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