J John: it's time to celebrate achievement at the Paralympics
Canon J John pinpoints three major reasons to get behind the Paralympics ...
Can I encourage you to support the Paralympics? I know that you have probably already overdosed on sport this summer and that watching disabled people raises a mixture of emotions. Nevertheless, let me suggest three reasons for supporting the Paralympics and encouraging those who are taking part.
First, disabled people need our support.
Now, I don’t mean that in a patronising way – it’s just that in our messed-up, sinful state human beings have a natural tendency to sideline disabled people to the margins of society.
Indeed, there are many cultures in which people who have a disability are isolated and hidden away. This goes against every principle of the Christian faith, which sees all men and women – whatever their age, gender or ability – as made in the image of God.
There are many people with disabilities in the Gospels – the blind, lame, paralysed and deaf – and while we focus on their miraculous healing we can overlook the fact that Jesus treated them with dignity and value. In fact, he seems often to have irritated people by interrupting meals and worship services to talk with disabled people.
Jesus’ words in Luke 14:12-14 are also worth noting: "Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich
neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.’"
Second, the Paralympians display an incredible degree of determination. This is a challenging reminder that many things of value are not achieved without effort. They set us a great example of perseverance.
Finally, the personal stories of many of those competing in the Paralympics are inspiring. In so many cases you read of men and women struck down with by what might seem to be overwhelming disaster yet who picked themselves up and kept going.
Of the many that I could mention let me highlight one – Derek Derenalagi, a Fiji-born discus thrower who lost both legs in a bomb blast while serving with the British Army in Afghanistan. To quote the Daily Telegraph, as he lay wounded, the devout Christian can remember praying: "Lord,
whatever happens, I thank you for my life. But if you have a role for me in the future, to be an inspiration for others, let me live."
To which I can only say, "Derek, your prayer has been answered."
Three cheers for the Paralympics!
Revd Canon J John
Director, Philo Trust