Opinion

March 24, 2015 (Bound4Life.com) — In his new book Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides, Pastor Scott Sauls seeks to navigate the big issues using scripture as his guide. On one of our culture’s most heated debates, he considers how the Giver of Life would see it. 

One day when Jesus was teaching people about the Kingdom of God, some people brought their babies to him to see if he would be willing to touch them. The disciples rebuked the parents for doing so.

Do you know who Jesus is? He is a king, we tell you, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and the teacher of Israel. Don’t you realize that someone of his stature does not have time for children? Don’t you realize that he is much more important than this? Do you really think he has time for these messy little noisemakers?

Jesus rebuked his disciples for this.

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Then, he called the children to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Children do not bother Jesus. They are not nuisances to him, and they should not be to us. In fact, they are our very best teachers when it comes to living authentically in the Kingdom of God. It is their raw honesty and dependence and quickness to run to their parents that show us, more than anything else, how God wants us to relate to him. Children, as far as Jesus is concerned, should be both seen and heard.

A few years ago, my friend Gabe Lyons published a moving piece in the Huffington Post about his oldest son, Cade. He said the following:

People with Down syndrome have been targeted for extinction. In November, the New York Post heralded “The End of Down Syndrome” and profiled a new, safer test for pre-natal detection. Before this test was available, 92 percent of Down syndrome diagnoses (and many times false diagnoses) resulted in the mothers choosing to terminate their pregnancies. With these new tests, some experts foretell the end of Downs.

Why the rush to rid the world of people like Cade?

Certainly, it isn’t because his disability physically threatens anyone. Rather, Down syndrome children pose a different kind of threat to society—the in-your-face reminder that our aspirations for “perfection” may be flawed. People like Cade disrupt normal.

Whether it’s his insistence that everyone he says “hello” to on the busy streets of Manhattan respond in-kind or his unfiltered ability to hug a lonely, wheelchair-bound, homeless man without hesitation: people like Cade bring new dimension to what normal ought to be…

Cade’s life, and those like his, offer an alternative view of the good life.

These individuals alter career paths and require families to work together. They invite each of us to engage, instead of simply walking by. They love unconditionally…  They celebrate the little things in life, and displace the stress that bogs most of us down. They seem to understand what true life is about, more than many of us. They offer us the opportunity to truly value all people as created equal.

I am grateful for Gabe’s perspective on Cade, as well as for my own church community, which is dedicated to supporting and affirming people with special needs. There is something so right and so good about this. For it is Jesus who says of the little people, the messy people, the simple people, and the people with special needs, “Let them come, and do not hinder them.”

We need Cade and others with his gifts to show us what it looks like to live with special needs. Because we all have special needs.

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And yet people with Down syndrome have been targeted for extinction. This is tragic.

Historically, Christianity has always embraced, affirmed, and sought to protect the lives of unborn children — no matter their condition. Having been fearfully and wonderfully made and knit together by God in their mothers’ wombs, all children possess the inalienable right to nurture, nourishment, protection, and advocacy.

This is a matter of justice. Jesus is eager to speak on behalf of all kinds of people, but especially those who are not able to speak for themselves.

The degree to which we lose this perspective about the little people among us, the degree to which we decide which categories of humans get to live and which categories do not, is the degree to which we have exchanged the dignity of all humans for Darwin’s natural selection theory applied to the human race. The survival of the fittest. Only the strong and preferred get to survive. The strong conquer the weak, who, as the psychopath Adolf Hitler saw it, were nothing but “useless eaters.”

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When we reduce a human being’s right to live all the way down to a cost-benefit analysis and decide to discard the lives that seem to cost more than they contribute, what will be next? This prevailing philosophy about human life will, over time, present even more grotesque injustice than what we have seen thus far.

A few years ago Peter Singer, an atheist and professor of bioethics at Princeton University, said what many were thinking about abortion. If infanticide inside the womb is legal, then there is no logical reason why infanticide outside the womb should not be legal as well. If a physician recommends termination of a child inside the womb, what should stop the same physician from recommending a postnatal termination if the child is found to be undesirable?

Upholding the dignity of Cade Lyons is the only way to be consistent in upholding the dignity of anybody. Otherwise Peter Singer is right. Because as soon as we decide that one form of human life is disposable, we have lost all ability to defend human rights for any form of human life.

If we believe an unborn child with Down syndrome should be eliminated because going through with the pregnancy could mean a harder life for the family or for the child, if we believe that such a child would become a drain on the family or on society, then let’s at least be consistent.

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If we were to say these sorts of things about an unborn child then, as Peter Singer said, we would have to say the same about a child who has been born but has a disease, or a difficult personality, or undesirable facial features, or the wrong gender. Furthermore, and to be consistent, we would need to do something about those who are physically weak, have a mental illness, are poor, or are elderly.

Can you imagine the world without all these people? Can you imagine what the world would be like if we allowed Hitler (or anyone else) to decide which people are useful and which ones are not? Like Gabe Lyons, my life is so much richer and fuller because of the people with special needs who are in it. Because I, too, have special needs. We all experience brokenness and cope with need. We all need to see how the power of God is made perfect through weakness.

Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

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But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world… so that no human being might boast in the presence of God… As it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Scott Sauls serves as senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee where he lives with his wife Patti and two daughters, Abby and Ellie. Scott has also planted churches in Kansas City and St. Louis and is a frequent speaker at conferences, leadership retreats, and to university students. He writes weekly on his blog at scottsauls.com and can also be found on Twitter at @scottsauls. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and reprinted from Bound4LIFE. All rights reserved.

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