As a person with a disability I am used to people saying, “because you’re disabled you can do this, but not that”. I am used to having to work hard not to be marginalised. There is a group of people in our churches who have heard that same message. Not because they are disabled, but because they are female. If we understand Paul’s theology then it is possible to walk to the beat of different drum. The drumbeat of grace.
If we follow Paul’s argument on gifts: if by grace we are called, then by grace we have been given the gifts. With that comes the responsibility to work in the body to ensure the maturing of the whole body. At the same time each of us has the responsibility to place ourselves in a position whereby we can become mature through the gifting of others.
These truths become the great levellers. It forces our discussions about disability and gender to take on a different tone entirely. External appearance will no longer be the prime motivator whereby we limit the roles of one person one way and the roles of another person a different way. Rather, we will be set on fire with a desire to help each other grow into what God created us to be. We will be diligent to help each other and the body of Christ grow into his image.
That means I need to be open to the maturing work that God may do in my life through another person, whether that is through sister or brother who is able or disabled. It the same time I must enable them to grow by creating space for them to exercise the gifting God has given them. As much as I am not worthy of God’s loving work in my life, they are not worthy to be gifted to work in my life. Both of us have received the gift of grace. They have been gifted by grace to help me grow. I have been gifted by grace in the opportunity to grow as well as the opportunity to facilitate their growth. The question is: will I accept it? If I insist the person must stand tall, speak clearly, or have as much mental acumen as I, then I may not accept the gift of growth when the barer of that gift has a disability. But will I accept that gift if the barer is in a skirt?
We need to get serious about getting rid of any theology about gender, or any other difference, by which we claim makes a person less able to work for the maturity of the church. If God has gifted them with gifts then who are we to argue? At the same time we need to be equally vigilant to not get hood winked by those who want to argue that because they are male or female, able or disabled they have the right to speak into our lives and help us grow. No, it is God, through his grace that empowers people to do this, it is not a right.