In the previous post, regarding God’s hope for the disabled, we said, “when we are resurrected to new life with new bodies, as Christ even now is resurrected, we will no longer know the pain or the impairment of disability. All of that will be gone. Over. Done with. … All in need of healing will be healed; all in need of curing will be cured.”
Though we did not put it in just this way, what we were speaking of was the discontinuity between our bodily life now (pre-resurrection) and our bodily life then (post-resurrection); in this discontinuity we found hope – hope of no more alzheimer’s, no more MS, no more quadriplegia. Hope of no more disabilities.
Recent theological work in the area of disability studies, however, would challenge us to reflect further; it would challenge us to recognize that not everyone would find such a word hopeful – indeed, that some may even find it distressing.
With this in mind, I offer the following vignette, or parable.
To God, our Redeemer and Lord, be the glory.
Karen began to squirm ever so slightly in the pew. Rick leaned forward, uncomfortably, and rested his chin in his hand.
Rev. Barney was a good man and a loving pastor whose faith was alive and sincere; and every once and a while, he could really preach. This particular Sunday Rev. Barney was in fine form as he brought his sermon home to a rapt congregation.
Rev. Barney had for years been an outspoken proponent of state-wide legislation to help close some of the loop holes in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, thereby further eliminating discrimination against individuals with disabilities. On the previous Thursday, this legislation had passed. .
Rev. Barney had begun his sermon with a celebration of the new state law, while continuing to urge the congregation to remain diligent in combatting the discrimination and unfair treatment of those with disabilities. Rev. Barney emphasized Jesus’s concern for the disabled and the infirm and said that as His followers we should demonstrate the same.
Though Jesus had not healed all illnesses or cured all disabilities while on earth, this, Rev. Barney said, is precisely what we should expect Him to do at the resurrection. “For, in the day of our resurrection” he said, drawing from Revelation 21, “He will wipe every tear from every eye. There will be no more death and no more mourning, no more crying and no more pain. The old order of things will have passed away, and on that day, He will make all things new!” Hearts swelled and eyes grew misty. Rev. Barney paused.
Then, he did something unusual – at least, unusual for him. He began speaking directly to various individuals in the congregation, each of whom was living with a disability themselves, or caring for someone who was. Calling each by name, Rev. Barney declared to them the promise of the resurrection (as he understood it, at least).
To Perry Adams, he said, “Perry! In God’s new heaven and new earth, in your newly resurrected body, you will no longer have ALS.”
Pivoting slightly, Rev. Barney’s gaze next landed on Carla Gerry. To her, he said, “Carla! In God’s new heaven and new earth, in your newly resurrected body, your sight will be restored.”
It was at this point that the waves of anxiety erupted inside Karen and Rick. “He’s not going to include us in this, is he?” they both wondered.
In their early 60’s, Karen and Rick had been married 38 years. During that time God had blessed them with three children, Sara, Kelly and Daniel, but it was Daniel who occupied their minds at present, as it was Daniel who had been born with trisomy-21, i.e., Down syndrome.
Rev. Barney was now looking right at Rick and Karen.
If so many other things hadn’t been running through her head, Karen would have surely been thinking, “This is why I don’t like to sit up front, Rick!”
“Rick and Karen,” Rev. Barney was saying. “In God’s new heaven and new earth, Daniel will receive a newly resurrected body and will no longer have Down syndrome.”
There it was.
Many left worship that morning wondering if Rev. Barney’s sermon had been his best ever. Karen and Rick left wondering if they would now be looking for a new church. For, the idea that their son would be resurrected by God without Down syndrome was something that both of them found abhorrent.
To Karen, Daniel without Down syndrome would not be Daniel. As far as she was concerned, were God to eliminate Daniel’s Down syndrome, God would eliminate Daniel.
What Rick found most upsetting was the implication that Daniel needed curing. “So God is gonna cure my son at the resurrection,” Rick was thinking. “That’s great. Awesome. But, could someone please tell me what it is exactly that my son needs to be cured of? His amazing spirit? His wonderful sense of humor? Or maybe his tremendous capacity to love? Honestly, it’s not Daniel who needs curing,” Rick thought as he pulled out of the church parking lot, “it’s the rest of the world. It’s all of us. We need to be cured of our oppressive presuppositions about what a person is supposed to be.”
I concluded my previous post with my belief that God’s hope for the disabled is more nuanced, more multi-dimensional, than simply, “God will fix it all in the resurrection.” It is not that this is untrue. Indeed, in the end, God will do just that – i.e., in the end, God will set right everything that has gone wrong. Thus, perhaps the nuance is not to be found in what God will do, but how God will do it, or, what it will look like, exactly, when God does it.
We have found a biblical basis to hope in the discontinuity between our bodily life now and the one we will receive in the resurrection. Is there a biblical basis for hoping in the continuity between our bodily life then and now?
This is essentially what Karen and Rick are looking for.
Does the Bible know of such a hope?