As I write this, Chen Guangcheng is still reportedly at the United States embassy in China. He is famous because he has stood against a great evil in China:
A self-taught lawyer, he has called attention to human rights abuses against the disabled and women who have been forcibly sterilized.
In Crisis Over Dissident, U.S. Sends Official to Beijing, The New York Times, April 29, 2012.
And he is blind. I have yet to read a story that doesn’t make mention, usually multiple times, to his blindness.
Obviously, God has gifted him with both intellectual gifts and with courage. We value those gifts a great deal, especially when applied to helping others who are weak. And since we consider him inherently part of the weak because of his disability, we are doubly amazed.
It does not appear his life has been easy at any point. If I am reading his history correctly, Chen Guangcheng couldn’t even read until he was 23 yet by the time he was 34 he was bringing a lawsuit against the Chinese government in Shandong Province for their brutal enforcement of the one-child policy.
The man born blind lived with such a problem of lack of opportunity. He was only allowed to beg in his adulthood (John 9:8).
But when given the opportunity, he spoke truth to authority:
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:24-25 ESV)
Those in authority gave him another chance, and he refused to back down or be caught in their political games:
They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:26-33 ESV)
The result: he was cast out (John 9:34).
Chen Guangcheng and the man born blind had unexpected gifts of insight, articulation and courage – and it appears both were underestimated until it was impossible to ignore them.
Are we doing the same with our church members with disabilities, missing the gifts and the opportunities for their expressing those gifts for the benefit of others?