Among all the miracles of the Bible there are three that stand out. Not because of the magnitude of power they displayed, but because of the people upon whom they were performed.
These three miracles include the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1–38) and the two healings of the men lame from their mothers’ womb (Acts 3:1–10; 14:8–10). The significance of these miracles is that they involved three of society’s “undesirables.” Their physical defects were congenital, not acquired from injury or some sickness later in life. These people were born defective. And in many cultures of the time—and today—society shelves such people out of sight—into orphanages or into the streets to beg. Why? Mostly because such birth defects reveal that there is “bad blood” in the family. A family with “bad blood” will have trouble marrying off its children.
That’s not the only reason people with congenital birth defects have been sidelined out of the central flow of society. The Eugenics movement of Britain, America, and Germany in the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries involved government programs of mass sterilizations to remove undesirable traits from the human race. In the US, thirty-three states enacted laws for the forced sterilization of the mentally ill. Many included laws to sterilize those exhibiting “alcoholism, criminality, chronic poverty, blindness, deafness, feeble-mindedness, and promiscuity.” The purpose was to purify the human race and to keep undesirables from procreating. Or, in the words of the Eugenics movement founder—and cousin of Charles Darwin—Sir Francis Galton, “Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution.”
In Hitler’s Germany, they carried eugenics to extremes. The Nazis employed draconian measures to purify the “Aryan Race”. Ultimately, to rid “undesirables” (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, etc.) from the earth.
Even today genetic engineering, once restricted to the production of fruits and vegetables to increase their size and desirability. Now it is being considered for application to people. Its purpose is to produce “better” and “more desirable” human beings—as we interpret “better and desirable.”
But Jesus had a totally different attitude toward those who were “born defective.” He showed mercy and love to them. He healed the man blind from birth and the men who were lame from his mother’s womb. His disciples asked why such people were born that way. Jesus explained that such defects were part of God’s plan. A plan to demonstrate His work in them and to bring glory to Himself through their weakness (John 9:3).
But God’s purpose through human frailty wasn’t always expressed through its healing. In 2 Corinthians 12:7–10, the Apostle Paul explained that God refused to take away his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul explained that his infirmity was God’s tool for humbling the great Apostle and driving him to cling desperately to God for grace and help. Paul even seems to correlate the degradation of the physical body to the development and renewal of the “inner man” (2 Cor. 4:16–17). This, of course, applies only to those who put their faith in God and cling to Him in their weakness.
Why, then, would God remove physical weakness from the human race, when it is such an effective teacher and developer of godly character? Why would God want to eliminate physical frailty from humanity when it serves His purpose so well in saving our souls from damnation and conforming our hearts into the image of our loving Savior? Perhaps even the frailty which old age brings is God’s way of preparing us for eternity—to help us focus on things eternal rather than on the temporary pleasures of this life.
So don’t fret over the ever-increasing frailty and defectiveness of humanity. Continue to show mercy and love to all members of the human race. Show them especially to those who need it most—those afflicted with physical or mental defects. Just as Jesus and His apostles did.
And don’t be captivated by another of humanity’s efforts to “improve the species”—another effort to eliminate undesirable traits or unwanted children or undesirable peoples. They all seem to end in tragedy—and frequently atrocities.
And don’t be so alarmed when your own health and vigor diminish. God has a profound and eternally good purpose for human frailty.
Dear Father in heaven, help me to see and take advantage of the opportunities to show Your love and kindness to the weak and infirm—as Jesus showed them mercy. Help me not to fear my own failing health and frailty, but to acknowledge Your divine purpose through all things, both pleasant and painful. Amen.