First then he deals with us compassionately in spite of inbred weaknesses. The question we should first answer is, “weakness” what is it? Who is weak? Who is strong? As I tell my handicapped son, Joel, and as I’ve also said in my sermons, we are all weak. We can say that we are all handicapped or disabled. For we all have limitations, and flaws and imperfections. However, some weaknesses stand out more than others.
Paul has something important to say about that in 2 Corinthians 12. He writes there about his own weakness. And he refers to the thorn of the flesh that God has given to him to torment him. He says in verse eight that three times he pleaded with the Lord to take that messenger of Satan away from him. What is the answer that he got from the Lord? The Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Because of the thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, Paul knows himself to be weak. That is clear from his response. For he now boasts about his weakness, and says, “When I’m weak, then I’m strong.” According to him God did not take away the thorn in his flesh so that Christ’s power may rest on him. Paul needed to have that thorn in the flesh to realize something very important, namely that he is dependent on the Lord. That he is not dependent on his own strength. He also needed to realize that none of us is strong, that we are all weak.
As I said there are certain weaknesses that some have but most others don’t; weaknesses that stand out. These can be either physical or mental or both. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul says in chapter 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” When Paul refers to the body, then he refers to the many different types of members there are in the body, including those with obvious weaknesses. That is what he refers to when he says in 1 Corinthians 12:22 that “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”
So those with obvious weaknesses are indispensable. Did you ever think about the weaker members in the congregation in that way? That you cannot do without them in the body of Christ? That the body of Christ, the church, is not complete without the weak members of the church?
But that is what Paul says. Why would he say that? Well, brothers, think about the way that the Lord Jesus dealt with those who are weak: the crippled, the lame, the mentally ill, those who are weighed down by their sins, those who have great difficulty functioning in society.
The Lord Jesus embraced them. He had compassion on them. He was drawn especially to those who are on the fringe of society, and therefore also on the fringe of church life. In Matthew chapter 4 we read about the beginning of his ministry where it says, “the people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” Further on in the Gospels we read that he had compassion especially on sinners: prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, and murderers. He sought them out.
He engaged them in a loving and caring way. It is as especially through them that he can show his love and care and healing powers. For those who are disabled, either physically or mentally or both often feel unworthy. They feel impotent because they cannot contribute in the way that others can. They feel that they are burden to others. They don’t want to be a nuisance to others, because that is how people often treat them. It may even be that they feel guilty because of their disability, thinking that it is because they had done something wrong that they became that way. And so they feel that they don’t belong.
There is a very important verse in the gospel of Luke. In chapter 9 we read about the encounter the Lord Jesus had with a man born blind. His disciples were wondering whether or not this was because of this man’s own sin, or the sin of his parents. And then the Lord Jesus says in verse three: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
The Lord God will use any kind of disability to remind us of the need for healing, and to make us trust in his power to heal. When our lives are touched by any kind of disability, then the Lord wants to use that for our benefit. He does not want us to ignore that.
And he especially doesn’t want the office bearers to ignore that. Those who are disabled are put on our path so that God, through us, may show his power and his compassion.