Are parents to blame for their child’s disability? Mark Arnold gives his answer to a question he and every parent of a child with special needs and disabilities asks at some in life. Read on for his answer.
Are parents to blame for their child’s disability? Jesus was asked that very question 2,000 years ago.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus,
“but this happened so that the work of God may be displayed in his life.”
Back then, it was commonly thought that the sins of the parents caused disability in their children. In the 2000 years since, our understanding of disability has increased enormously. However the belief that parents are to blame for their child’s disability or additional needs still clings in some communities and church denominations. Whether the belief is that the sins of the parents are the cause of the disability, or that their perceived lack of faith is to blame for unfulfilled prayers for healing, the finger of blame is firmly pointed at the parents. This is in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught.
Imagine what parents have gone through. The emotional turmoil of discovering their child has a disability or additional needs. The confusion, shock, and grief they experienced during the process of diagnosis. If they told their church, they may have been offered prayer for healing of their child. I believe God heals. I’ve seen and heard examples of this. The Bible teaches us about healing. But I’m also aware that often God doesn’t heal. Apply that to a church where a child isn’t healed after prayer. Instead of recognizing that this is up to God, churches often blame the parents for their lack of faith. This is cruel to both the parents and the child, and ut is totally wrong.
So let’s stop asking if parents are to blame for their child’s disability and look at what Jesus said…“but this happened so that the work of God may be displayed in his life.”
In that case, Jesus chose to heal the man, giving him his sight, so that the work of God was displayed in his life. The work of God can, however, be displayed in and through the life of a child, young person, or adult with additional needs, whether they are healed or not.
I don’t pray for healing for my 17-year-old autistic son anymore. His autism is a neuro-diversity. This means he lives in and responds to the world differently. He also understands and communicates differently. I do pray that some of the things he finds hard be made easier and less stressful so we can communicate more effectively.
Jesus’ words in the final part of the passage are as relevant for James as they were for the man he encountered 2000 years ago.
God works through our children too, so that his work may be displayed in their lives. Let’s stop wrongly blaming parents, or even worse, cause parents to blame themselves for their child’s condition. Let our children inspire us to what God has called us to do. Let us celebrate how God is working through our children. Let us do away with fault, blame, guilt and other negatives that are the work of the enemy. Jesus won the victory over the enemy, and we share that victory with him!
Let us all pray that the work of God may be displayed in all of our lives.
Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, a leading national Christian children’s and youth organization. He is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a national and international advocate for children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. Mark is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, a member of the Council for Disabled Children and the European Disability Network. He writes an additional needs column for Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine and blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather, He is father to James, who has autism spectrum condition, associated learning disability, and epilepsy. To find out more about how Mark’s work can help you, contact him at: email@example.com or @Mark_J_Arnold.
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