Big Questions

Vocation/Calling

Is there a calling for people with disabilities? My daughter has Down syndrome. Does God have a calling for her to fulfill? 

Yes. All members of the body of Christ are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit, grow in the fruit of the Spirit, and both receive from and contribute to other members of their communities. In the U.S., one in 691 births are children with Down syndrome.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-3). People with Down syndrome have the same calling to cultivate these Christian virtues as typical children and adults do. Parents have a special calling to help their children grow in the Spirit’s fruit, and the broader Christian community must fertilize this cultivation for all its members.

Even if the world devalues people with Down syndrome, the church certainly should not do so. The least in the eyes of the world are the most important in the church and the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul says, “[T]he members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect” (1 Cor. 12:22-23, NRSV). People with Down syndrome contribute to their families, their schools, their coworkers, their employers, and society. Siblings of children with Down syndrome report their relationship with them is one of the greatest gifts of their lives. Kids with Down syndrome have hopes and dreams and want to make a difference in the world. Though it may take longer, these children go through all the stages of typical development, and many adults with Down syndrome go to college, have rewarding jobs, and marry. They too must discern their gifts, concerns, and opportunities for service as they discover and live out their callings.

About the Author

Douglas J. Schuurman is a professor of religion at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.

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