Jesus spent a lot of time working with people with disabilities. We don't read of his treatment of 'learning disabilities' in the Gospels, for that would have been an unfamiliar idea in his day, though some of his healing miracles would have had implications for academic problems. Surely once the poor man tormented by a 'Legion' of demons was "sitting... and in his right mind" (Luke 8:35) he would have been more successful in a classroom setting!

Today, the issue of learning disabilities is a huge part of our educational programs, and there is much to learn from Jesus. One outstanding point is that he never treated two individuals the same. However similarly the problem presented itself, he addressed the uniqueness of the root. So, for example, he sometimes saw a disability as having a physiological cause. Other times he approached it as a behavioural issue (though in his diagnosis on these occasions he was not afraid to use the word 'sin'). On other occasions he saw the root of the problem in demonic influences at work in bodies and minds.

We have been considering children as arrows - but as arrows who, while made in the image of God, have to some degree been bent out of shape as a consequence of the Fall. They now come to the educational process with inbuilt tendencies to deviate from the trajectory for which they were created. Education that is committed to enabling children to arrive at their destiny must address this issue of bent-ness.

So Jesus' response to disabilities is as helpful in relation to learning disabilities as much as it is to any other kind of disability. And, interestingly, Jesus knew what to do about bent-ness. In Luke 13, we read of an old lady who was "bent over..." (v.11). This was to be an opportunity for a literal, physiological miracle, but it also serves as a metaphor for the power of Jesus. Luke (a physician), as he gives his diagnosis of this case, was clearly not a great fan of self-help models, for having described her condition he went on to say that she "...could in no way raise herself up" (v.11). The straightening of this particular person in order that she might have the freedom to live as God intended required her being set free from demonic powers.

While we are in no way suggesting that every learning disability is a demonic manifestation (any more than Jesus treated every other kind of disability as such), it should surely be a distinctive of Christian education to recognize that there is a spiritual dimension to every facet of life, not least the learning process. And since the major barrier to all of us fulfilling our God-given potential is the reality of sin in our world and in our lives, we would be naive to assume that we are adequately preparing our young people for the future that God has prepared for them without the application of the healing power of the gospel to the twisted-ness of sin that prevents us from flying true.

We have the wonderful aspiration written into our Christian Schools' mission statements that we want our students to see all of life through the lens of God's Word. That is an academic and a spiritual goal. But Paul tells us that "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor 2:14). There are areas of learning, both academic (Bible-based, God-centered curriculum) and behavioral (moral standards and codes of conduct) that make no sense apart from the life of the Spirit. So, in order to effectively help students to achieve the goals that God has for them, teachers must see their role as spiritual, with a healing dimension, as much as intellectual with its rather narrow academic dimension.



Pupils who can see is a book that helps us build our educational programs with a biblical view of children in mind. This blog introduces some of the ideas in chapter 8. The book is now available in all e-book formats through a variety of outlets at $1.99. 

To find it for Kindle at Amazon.com, click here

To buy a copy for Koboclick here

To download it for iPads and iPhones, go to your account at the iTunes store and search for "Brian Watts pupils" 

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