Autism is a complex neurological condition that affects how a person communicates, interacts, behaves, and learns. Autism is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because there is a wide variation in how it affects people. Some people with autism have challenges with speech while others are gifted with exceptional abilities in music, math, art, or memory.
Autism impacts people of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 44 children have been diagnosed with ASD as of 2020. This number continues to rise, so autism awareness and understanding is more important than ever – especially for Christians.
The Bible does not specifically mention autism, as autism has only been formally identified and studied in modern times. However, the Bible has much to say about how we should love, serve, accept, and care for people with special needs. As Christians, we are called to follow Jesus’ example of compassion and look past disabilities to see the inherent dignity and worth in every person.
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- God creates and loves every person – including those with autism.
- Jesus set an example of serving those marginalized by society.
- The body of Christ should be inclusive and accepting of people with diverse abilities and needs.
- Every member of the church has an important role to play.
- Families affected by autism need support and care.
- With God’s help, we can overcome challenges related to autism.
Let’s explore what the Bible teaches about ministering to those impacted by autism and nurturing a community where they can thrive.
All People are Created in God’s Image
The Bible teaches that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. This gives inherent dignity and value to every person, regardless of race, gender, or disability. Several verses affirm this foundational biblical principle:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 NKJV)
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:24-28)
These verses do not single out disabilities, but apply to all humanity. Every single life, whether affected by autism or not, bears the stamp of the Divine. God purposefully creates diversity in human beings and calls us to embrace and uphold the dignity of all.
Jesus Welcomed and Healed Those Marginalized
During His earthly ministry, Jesus showed compassion to those marginalized and condemned by society. Christ did not just tolerate outcasts – He lovingly received them.
Jesus welcomed lepers, healed hemorrhaging women deemed ceremonially unclean, and touched people with infectious diseases. When the disciples rebuked people bringing children to Jesus, He responded with indignation and welcomed the children. Jesus saw past societal stigmas to honor the divinely imprinted worth in people.
Several examples depict Jesus’ concern for people with disabilities:
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:28 NKJV)
When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened. (Matthew 9:27-30a NKJV)
Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. (Luke 13:10-13 NKJV)
While He did not specifically encounter autism, Jesus welcomed, touched, and healed people that society often ignored or mistreated. His ministry was marked by compassion and loving receptivity.
The Body of Christ Should be Inclusive
The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of the body of Christ to describe the church. Within the body, every member plays an important role:
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:4-5 NKJV)
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased…And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Corinthians 12:18, 26-27 NKJV)
These passages teach that the community of believers should be inclusive and caring – where each person is valued for their unique contributions. While our functions differ, we need each other.
The body of Christ should make room for people with diverse abilities and challenges. We should support and honor those impacted by autism, not exclude them. Their perspective is needed within the fuller body.
Use Gifts to Serve God and Others
The Bible encourages people to use their unique gifts to serve God and benefit the church. This applies to those with autism as well:
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 11 NKJV)
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10 NKJV)
People with autism often have special abilities in music, academic skills, technology, creative expression, or memory. Within a supportive community, they can use these talents to bless others. Even those with more significant challenges have much to contribute through their presence.
The body of Christ must make room for the gifts of those impacted by autism. We should nurture environments where their abilities are discovered and cultivated.
Bear One Another’s Burdens
The Bible calls Christians to share one another’s burdens:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NKJV)
Families affected by autism face added challenges and stresses. They often feel isolated. Many parents struggle to find supportive communities where their child is welcomed and understood.
As the body of Christ, we are called to bear these burdens alongside families impacted by autism. We can provide practical help, encouragement, respite, childcare, mentorship, prayer, counsel, and open hearts to listen and understand.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)
This call to radical love extends to all people – including those with autism. We are called to look beyond the diagnostic label and see a fellow human being created in God’s image, with hopes, dreams, and desires like our own.
Loving our autistic neighbor requires learning about their unique needs, discovering their gifts, extending patience and grace, finding connection points, and creating communities where they are valued.
With God’s Help, All Things Are Possible
For families impacted by autism, challenges can at times seem overwhelming. But God promises strength and guidance to those who seek Him:
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 KJV)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
With God’s help, the impossible becomes possible. He equips us to do what we could never do on our own. God gives persevering strength for each day. He brings hope in the midst of hardship through His presence and promises.
Though autism brings difficulties, God cares deeply and promises to be near. As we walk with Him, God helps us overcome obstacles and experience joy on the journey.
While the Bible does not specifically mention autism, it provides principles to guide us in loving and supporting those impacted. Every person is made in God’s image and has inherent worth. Jesus modeled compassion for those marginalized by society. The body of Christ is called to be inclusive – making room for people with diverse abilities. Families affected by autism need their burdens borne. With God’s help, we can overcome challenges related to autism.
As Christians, we should see through the lens of God’s love – honoring the dignity and value in each person created to reflect Him. May we make our churches and communities places of openness, empathy, support, and belonging for all God’s children.