I wish I had a dollar for every dismissive act or word I’ve heard directed at someone pleading for their church to develop an inclusive approach. Sadly, I would be a very rich woman.
If I were a late night talk show host, I could develop a top 10 list:
- There are no kids with special needs here.
- We just don’t have the resources.
- If you want that kind of ministry, you do it.
- I’m sorry, did you say something?
- We can’t be all things to all people.
- You just need to lay down the law with that kid.
- Our insurance company won’t allow it.
- It’s not our top priority.
- I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
- You are disturbing others.
Nothing will test our Christianity like rejection by Christians. When we bring resources, insights and/or a willingness to a church to build an inclusive environment, nothing stings and feels less Christ-like than being blown off by those who are supposed to be our supportive “brothers and sisters in Christ”. It is completely natural to want to lash out with a visceral response, but that only feeds the ostracizing more.
Instead, I want to encourage those seeking to build a more welcoming church environment for those with disabilities. Persist. Don’t give up. God’s word holds the key to our response to this kind of behavior within the church:
- “But I tell you, love those who hate you. (*Respect and give thanks for those who say bad things to you. Do good to those who hate you.) Pray for those who do bad things to you and who make it hard for you.” ~ Matthew 5:44, NLV
- Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. ~ Ephesians 4:29, AMP
- “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him what he did without other people hearing it. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back again. But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other people with you. Every word may be remembered by the two or three who heard. If he will not listen to them, tell the trouble to the church. If he does not listen to the church, think of him as a person who is as bad as one who does not know God and a person who gathers taxes.” ~ Matthew 18:15-17, NLV
- No mercy will be shown to those who show no mercy to others. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:13, GW
- Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:13, NIV
We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are unresponsive, ungodly or dismissive. We need to guard our mouths in our frustration. We need to keep approaching with the godly admonition that Jesus prescribed. We must be merciful and forgiving, just as we were shown mercy and forgiven. After all, we were more than likely insensitive and ignorant at some point in our lives.
Persist, my friend, and take courage in knowing that when you follow God’s commands, He will honor your perseverance.