Summary: Three groups of people who affected this man’s access to Christ. Which one are you in?
Helpers or Hindrances?
Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church
May 21, 2006
Read Luke 5:16-26.
While I was in Jr. High and High School, mom worked at a state run facility for the mentally retarded called Mexia State School. On occasion I would drop by and visit with her and briefly interact with the residents. After graduating from high school, I too went to work there, and ended up working there for about two and a half years. It was there that I met my wife: not as a resident, but as a new employee!
Some of the residents were mildly retarded. I worked on a dorm for the last several months with some of them. They could dress themselves, go to classes and work, and while they were lacking in some social skills, they interacted relatively well with other people. But around the campus were many residents who were more severely retarded and physically handicapped. I found it hard to imagine what it would be like to live life in that sort of condition: to not be able to walk or talk or rightly reason. What would it be like to be confined to a wheelchair or a bed or a room?
One lady’s brief note to her pastor speaks volumes. “I am a handicapped person in a wheelchair,” she said. “I am very lonely even though I know I’m never alone.” Another said, “I get treated differently because I’m small and have no limbs so people automatically assume I can’t do anything at all or completely ignore me. I hate it because I can do some stuff, but it’s just because I’m different. People don’t know how to act.”
It is an interesting thing that in a world where everyone seems to want to be different and be noticed one of the most precious things we enjoy is to fit in and be like everyone else. We want to be different, but we want to be different like everyone else. If we really are different, by choice or by circumstance, we are instantly alienated and begin to feel excluded from fellowship.
Think about how closely related the word access is to the word barrier. You might think of architectural barriers in church buildings when you consider our ministry to the handicapped. We have barriers here don’t we? Our handicapped parking is on one side of the building and our handicapped ramp is on the other side. When you have the time you ought to sit in a wheelchair and try to go to one of our restrooms or get through the halls and into the classrooms while other people are in the building. While this is surely an important issue, let me remind you that barriers preventing entrance into buildings or rooms symbolize something deeper: exclusion from community or fellowship.
In some instances there may be valid reasons for this exclusion. Israel’s ancient tabernacle with its inner Sanctuary, and the temple with its walls and gates are examples. God did not permit the handicapped to serve at the temple. In a very real way they were cut off and denied access and privileges afforded to “normal” people. Although laws have changed and we’re not concerned with the priesthood today, I wonder if the Lord’s churches haven’t been much slower to change. Are we willing to minister to those with disabilities?