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Disability and the most vulnerable: lessons from Acts 3

Today we bring you a devotional from Hitomi Honda, World Vision International advisor, Disability, Child Rights and Development.

James, age 11, has a reason to be so jovial: he is seated on a new wheelchair from World Vision.
Photo: World Vision

As disability was often and for a long time understood solely in medical terms, so was Acts 3: 1-10 thought to celebrate the beggar’s new ability to walk by God’s grace. However, there is another way to look at this Scripture.

Especially since the introduction of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the international development community has been shifting its understanding of disability from that of charity and medical needs to one of social issues. This understanding now emphasizes the dignity, self-worth and same, equal rights the persons with disabilities have.

How does the Bible support this and how does this understanding translate to the work of development and humanitarian affairs?

The beauty of God’s work in Acts 3: 1-10 is not that the man was enabled to walk. What is celebrated is the restoration of the dignity of a man who had long been exploited by others by making him beg at the Beautiful Gate everyday. No one paid attention to or protected him from such harmful situation.

God was saddened not by the inability of the man to walk but by the uninterested, uncaring and uncompassionate people around him. People thought the man at the Beautiful Gate was incapable of work so they threw coins into his cup. As a beggar, he would have been satisfied with small change or a bit of food. No one took time for him, held his hand or had conversation with him, as Peter and John did even though they were in a hurry to pray at the temple.

Working with children with disabilities – the largest group of most vulnerable children – we leaders know that it is not about being able to walk or see that matters the most to them. More than anything, they want to belong; participate; to be loved, respected and valued like other children.

We can then imagine the joy the man in the Scriptures experienced, as he no longer sat on the ground, looked down on by people who passed by and threw coins at him. That is why the Scriptures say people were not only amazed at seeing him walking but more so that he had joy in praising God and dignity for he was no longer begging.

God wants to see children who are marginalized, exploited, devalued or unloved rejoice and praise him. God is asking us to pay attention to the most vulnerable children and be a part of creating an enabling environment that is just and caring. He expects us to take time for them and with them. Like Peter and John, we may have other important or urgent things to do. But God wants us to put the most vulnerable children at the core of our work and help them rejoice in God as the man at the Beautiful Gate did.

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