When I was a senior in high school I took a class called Peer Tutoring. It turned out to be the most meaningful class I would ever take.
As a Peer Tutor, my job was to help out the special education teachers at our school. The special needs students at Kentridege were affectionately called Special Chargers, after our school mascot.
The Special Charger wing at the school was divided into two sections.
Students with mild to moderate mental retardation (such as Downs Syndrome) were on one side. Students with severe mental handicaps and students with moderate to severe physical limitations were on the other side.
I went into my Peer Tutoring class with the thought that I would lend a helping hand and spend some time with students in need.
I finished the first semester knowing that I must continue. I quickly added the class to my schedule for another semester.
I thought I was there to serve and encourage our Special Chargers. In fact, they encouraged me far more than I could have imagined.
One thing we learned early on in the Peer Tutoring class was how important the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 was to the Special Chargers and for all people dealing with physical and mental challenges.
The act affords similar protections against discrimination to Americans with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal.
The teachers gave us the task of walking through our school with the task of noticing any spots in and around campus that would be difficult for our Special Chargers to access.
I had walked our campus for three straight years and had never given it much thought. I could get anywhere I needed to be and would use shortcuts if necessary. Now I was walking around campus with fresh eyes. I was looking at it through a completely different lens.
There were many spots that were simply inaccessible to for students in wheelchairs or those using walkers.
It was as if we were sending a subtle unwelcoming message to our Special Chargers.
Yes, you’re welcome here, but stay in your wing of the school.
Unfortunately the Christian church (universal) is guilty of communicating the same message.
Yes, you’re all welcome here, but you better do things our way.
Jesus didn’t do that.
He touched the untouchable when He ministered to and healed lepers.
He welcomed conversation with those He wasn’t supposed to when He ministered to the woman at the well.
He allowed others access to Himself that He shouldn’t have when the sinful woman anointed his feet while at a dinner with dignitaries.
“The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.” (Ephesians 3.6, MSG)
Let’s make the message accessible and welcoming to everyone.
Let’s make it easy for people to get to know Jesus and experience His Grace.
To do this you may need to take a look at your church, youth, or campus ministry with fresh eyes.
Are you making it easy for people to experience God’s goodness?
The message of Grace is for everyone. It’s not reserved for a select few. His kindness and love are available to everyone, Special Chargers and all.