As Jesus walked the dusty roads of the Roman Empire during His ministry in Judea, the religious establishment resented His presence and His message. At every turn, they questioned His motives and challenged His authority. When Jesus went to Matthew’s home for dinner, His detractors found fault. “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’” (Matthew 9:11–13).
Christ’s expression of compassion for those who had need of healing, both physically and spiritually, acknowledged their need for meaningful change in their lives. His profound, proactive approach to the problems of mankind came to my mind during a presentation by a renowned physician to a professional group that administered workers’ compensation benefits for employees affected by on-the-job accidents, injuries, and diseases. These injured employees certainly needed a physician and other services.
This highly regarded specialist had a phenomenal record of returning people to gainful employment. He was an excellent speaker, and he gave valuable insights into the basis for his success in helping people recover. Beyond covering technical medical information, he revealed his perspective, explaining that he treated people who were “disabled, disallowed, disaffected, and disavowed.” He then detailed his approach toward trying to restore them to productive lives. As I listened, I realized that he had also described a major part of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
A World in Need
Looking at history and the conditions under which major segments of the world’s population live today, we see many people who are “disabled, disallowed, disaffected, and disavowed.” There are poignant examples in many parts of the world. Along the southern border of the United States, the influx of people demanding to be allowed into the country overwhelms immigration authorities. Other countries deal with issues that are just as intractable and overwhelming.
“Well,” one might say, “these are tragic conditions, but they are not new. We are not directly affected. We’re doing okay.” For a reality check, visit some veteran’s hospitals, children’s hospitals, nursing homes, or prisons. Go to the court house on Monday mornings and see the parade of humanity coming before the courts, straining the judicial system to the breaking point.
While most people in Western societies do have food, clothing, shelter, and at least a degree of medical care, a large segment of the world’s population does not fare well. Just as in Jesus Christ’s day, multitudes of people know that they need help, healing, and deliverance. Hardship, difficulty, and suffering have been the story of mankind apart from God, cut off from the ways that bring peace, happiness, and prosperity.
Down through the ages, there have been prophecies that God would send a Messiah to bring light to these dark, gloomy circumstances. For example, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). Going on, verses 6–7 state,
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
So, “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4), and the ministry of Jesus began. “Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee…. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:12, 17).
When people heard of His miracles, especially miraculous healings, those who were “disabled, disallowed, disaffected, and disavowed” thronged to hear Him (Luke 5:15; 8:42).
Analyzing these four descriptive terms brings the importance of Christ’s actions and example into sharp focus.
The word “disabled” refers to those who are at least partially incapacitated, unable to function. It can mean crippled physically or mentally.
How did Jesus respond to this problem? The Bible tells us.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan (Matthew 4:23–25).
He had compassion and the power to heal them. Everywhere that He went, Jesus was pressed by those with physical illness and disease. “And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (Matthew 12:15).
John the Baptist, a man of God and Jesus’ cousin, did no miracles. When he heard about the miraculous things that Jesus was doing, he sent two of his disciples to inquire of Him, asking, “‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear…. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me’” (Matthew 11:2–6).
When Jesus sent out seventy men in pairs, He instructed them to “heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Luke 10:9).
As Jesus was preparing for His departure, He promised the Apostles that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and added this exciting prophecy: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). Did these promised “greater works” actually occur? Yes! Acts 3 gives the inspiring account of Peter and John encountering a man lame from birth who was begging for alms at the gate of the temple. “And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ So, he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’” (vv. 4–10). The man was healed instantly.
Later, as the apostles spoke at the temple, the Bible states,
And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.… And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also, a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:12–16).
Phillip, who had been ordained as a deacon, later went down to Samaria and God did mighty works of healing through him as well (Acts 8:5–8).
What about us today? What should we be doing for the “disabled”? Paul put it this way: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12–13). James, the Lord’s brother, gave these instructions:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:13–16).
Will everyone be healed in this life? Probably not, but all will be healed in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:1, 3–5). No one will be disabled in the Kingdom of God.
The disallowed are those who are prohibited, restrained, or hampered—those refused and not accepted.
Many problems in the world are the result of discrimination based on race, ethnicity or national origin. God anticipated this problem and gave specific instructions for dealing with it. “One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” (Exodus 12:49). The stranger or foreigner had to obey the rules, but there was only “one law.” God did not want the Israelites ever to forget that they had been oppressed in Egypt for centuries. “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).
God knew the human proclivity to “disallow” or discriminate against others, so He emphasized His instruction on the subject. There is no misunderstanding this plain statement: “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33–34). The Israelites were not merely to tolerate foreigners—they were to love them. There was also instruction to remember the “stranger” during the Festival seasons (Deuteronomy 16:11, 14), as well as to be fair in employment practices and to remember the poor (Deuteronomy 24:14,17–22).
Foreigners or strangers have their part to do, but they are to be given an opportunity. The core of the message was that no one should be left out. “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:12).
God’s instructions make it clear that we should not scheme against those who are vulnerable. He inspired Zechariah to write, “Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother” (Zechariah 7:9–10).
James gave a stinging rebuke to those who showed partiality to the wealthy but showed disdain for the poor, whose clothing revealed their poverty. He summed up his rebuke with these words: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8–9). Paul put it succinctly, “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11).
We do well to remember the “disallowed,” assisting them, including them, and meeting their needs as we are able. No one will be disallowed in the Kingdom.
To be disaffected means to be estranged or no longer friendly—to be discontented or disloyal.
In difficult and confusing times, some lose their way and wander from the tenets of the Bible and the Church. Feeling hurt and betrayed, they may become hostile. It happened anciently and in the time of Christ and the Apostles. It still occurs today, and it will probably continue.
God sent a message through the prophet Ezekiel to false shepherds who caused confusion, abusing and neglecting the flock:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them’” (Ezekiel 34:2–6).
Jesus was constantly upbraided by the religious establishment, to whom He responded, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Luke 15:11–32 gives the account of the “lost son” who foolishly squandered the inheritance generously given to him by his father, and in time found himself in a pigpen in a foreign country, hungry and alone. Defeated and humiliated, he returned home and was warmly accepted by his father, who had thought he had lost his son forever. James gives us a Godly perspective on such cases: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20).
God is concerned for the “disaffected” and we should be as well. No one will be disaffected in the Kingdom.
The “disavowed” refers to those for whom society denies any responsibility—those turned away because they are perceived as unworthy. These individuals have been repudiated, rejected, or disowned, mostly for reasons beyond their control. For example, a physical deformity or medical condition that renders one “unsightly” or “grotesque” may cause a person to be isolated, deprived of healthy relationships and friends. Stigma from one’s past such as a criminal record, acknowledged former addictions, bizarre tattoos, or other aberrant characteristics may cause a person to be ostracized until these off-putting factors are overshadowed or forgotten.
Tragically, widows, orphans, and the elderly may find themselves in such straits, without the emotional, financial, and spiritual support that they desperately need. Families are often scattered or dysfunctional to the extent that support for them is simply not provided. Neglect of these vulnerable individuals is a serious problem that occurs at every level of society.
Sadly, some still harbor disdain for certain cultures or ethnic groups outside their own.
Jesus and the Apostles in the early Church often encountered the disavowed. The Jews avoided the Samaritans and looked down on them. Jesus went through Samaria on His way to Galilee, though other Jews avoided that route. At noon, He stopped at Jacob’s well and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Surprised, she responded, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:9). Jesus used the opportunity to explain to her who He was and about truly worshipping God. Rather than ignoring or deriding the Samaritan woman, Jesus accepted and instructed her.
As Jesus had dinner at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees, He used the occasion to answer the questions of His host. As He concluded a parable illustrating the need for humility, He added this lesson: “Then He also said to him who invited Him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just’” (Luke 14:12–14). In doing this, He showed that we should have concern for the disavowed, who are often overlooked.
Many places in Scripture make it obvious that God is very concerned about widows, orphans, and immigrants (“strangers” or “aliens” in the Bible’s language). In the Old Testament, the instruction is clear—speaking of God, it states, “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17–19).
This theme is continued in the New Testament. Paul instructed Timothy to honor widows (1 Timothy 5:3). James, Jesus’ brother, expressed the importance of providing for widows and the fatherless: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
The Church takes this responsibility seriously. By following the biblical instruction to pay a third tithe every third year, we manage a program that assists widows, orphans, and newcomers with needs that are not being met for reasons beyond their control. Our help is usually not the primary means of their support, but we provide a supplemental amount to make up for what they lack. It is important that we follow the instruction of Jesus Christ in being aware of and providing for the needs of the disavowed to the extent that we can.
As the collective Church of God and as individuals, we should take every opportunity to:
- Remember the disabled and help them in any way that we can.
- Accept the disallowed and guard against discrimination or partiality.
- Reach out to the disaffected, who might respond and return.
- Acknowledge the disavowed, providing encouragement and assistance.
In doing these things, we demonstrate our love for our fellow man, and we will be continuing the work of Jesus Christ and the apostles as we look forward to the Kingdom of God. At that time, these problems of mankind will finally and forever be solved.