“Difficult people” and the resurrection

Recently I was struck afresh by the great joy we’ll experience when the children of God are revealed, and our bodies are redeemed (Rom 8:18-25). I was struck in particular while praying for a brother with an intellectual disability. It wasn’t so much the redemption of my body that brought me joy (though as I get older I am beginning to ache more and more!), but the redemption of this brother’s body. As I prayed for this brother, I was overjoyed to think of him praising God in the new creation with his mind fully perfected. I imagined the great joy it would bring for both of us to be able to converse with each other in our glorified states. No longer would it be challenging for us to communicate to each other, but now together we would worship and praise God for all eternity. What a grand picture!

However, I was also rebuked as I was struck afresh by this great joy. Sadly, because it’s challenging at times to speak with so-called “difficult people” (though how quickly we forget how difficult we all can be!), we tend to do it too little. Yet, these brother and sisters need to be encouraged in the Lord just as much as the rest of us! We share the same hope and we want to see all our brothers and sisters in the new creation, praising our great God. And God has given us each other to be concerned with one another, and to encourage each other as the day draws near (Heb 10:24-25). Truth be told, many of our brothers and sisters with disabilities are a great encouragement to us all. Their faith is a great witness to the gospel of salvation, they are genuine and honest, and dare I say it, they are more regular attenders at church than many of us! 

This is what has been so horrible about some of the current debates surrounding abortion. In the eyes of the world and in its selfishness, the lives of those with disabilities are not worth living or caring for. But for the Christian, all people are fearfully and wonderfully made and are valuable in God’s eyes, even within the womb (Ps 139). These are not unwanted people, but image-bearers of God for whom Jesus died. Praise God for these brothers and sisters who are a part of our church families. Moreover, unlike the world, we have a great hope in Christ that goes beyond this earthly life and beyond this earthly body. Like Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15, our perishable bodies will be raised imperishable (vv. 42-44), and like a seed becomes a plant, so will our current bodies be changed and transformed (vv. 36-39). 

In light of these truths there are a few simple things we can do. Firstly, we can be praying for these fellow believers. Pray for them by name and for them to grow in Christlikeness. Secondly, we should make the effort to say hello to them each week. For one particular brother at my church, a short conversation each week is a great encouragement for us both (and a short conversation is the extent of his interest). And thirdly, for those who are more independent, include them in your out-of-church social gatherings or family meals.[1]

I hope you can see that this is no different to how we should love any of God’s people! We are to practice hospitality (Rom 12:13). This is an encouragement to see how important it is for us to work at loving all our brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have been given to one another by God. Imagine, if in God’s great sovereignty, a brother or sister was preserved in their faith until the end because your love was a means of grace for them. What a joy that would be.

I do look forward to that day when we will all be resurrected, and God’s dwelling will be with humanity (Rev 21). Praise God for the hope of the resurrection and the new creation to come for God’s people. What a joy that day will bring. It is the hope of the resurrection that helps spur us on in encouraging all of God’s people in the Lord, no matter how difficult it might feel at times.  

[1] Of course, you can include those with carers too! But this can be case by case depending on the venue and context. I want to encourage us to be radical in our hospitality.