Disclaimer: The words in the post may or may not be edited as I’m still trying to figure things out with the Lord’s help. I understand it’s a very sensitive subject and will be eventually consulting with Christians who minister with mental abuse or work in autistic ministries to help me polish this post.
Not sure how to give an intro into this post. However, I found a testimony about a heart-breaking story regarding a parent who wants her son to receive a powerful spiritual encounter with Jesus. This may be a good place to start. Here’s her story.
My son has been diagnosed with autism but we know it has a spiritual component. I have been praying for him and we know that whether it is part of the autism or not, there is an irrational spiritual fear. I read to him the Bible and try to work with him and so do his teachers, but they think he has autism. We aren’t fighting that (the autism), but we are certain some of his problems are spiritual and due to abuse from outside family members and “friends,” especially the fears and certain odd behaviors. Please pray for him that he receives and becomes a servant of Jesus Christ, because I am convinced that will help him. He has some limited understanding of the Gospel and God has revealed to me that the fear expression (both facial and verbal) that precedes some of his behavior is spiritual and would be helped if he places his trust in Jesus.
I’ll cover the behaviors of autism and spiritual abuse in a later post. I’m not an expert at that subject, but I do want to share my own story of spiritual abuse (also in a later post). While I do believe some behaviors are caused by spiritual abuse and damage from social PTSD, I believe in a God who can remove fear of man and limited understanding of the Gospel. Since behaviors are conditions and habits that are linked to free will, I feel that Christ can only walk alongside a person struggling with autism while giving them the strength to choose reconditioning of their quirks or behaviors that aren’t central to autism.
While I really don’t like saying some of this part, let me apologetically recap with a bit of Christianity 101 and why all humans need Jesus:
Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men.” This scripture is one of a lot (including Ephesians 2:3 and Psalm 51:5) that indicates that every person regardless of race, status, or track record is born into sin. With the exception of Jesus, every single human is sinful from conception in the womb. Roman’s 3:10 says this clearly “There is no one righteous, not even one.” When Adam ate the fruit, he infected the human race. We all are born from Adam and therefore inherit his original sin. This means that autistic individuals and those with Aspergers are sinful. Their nature is evident everyday, as humanity, even myself, is rebellious and care most about themselves and fulfilling their own needs. It’s pretty obvious when you look around you and it’s getting worse by the second.
The Bible also says that as sinful people, we only have one way into heaven. That way is through faith in Jesus Christ, the son of God. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are commanded to give up our own desires and sinful nature and put our faith and live our lives only for Jesus. Acts 17:30 reads, “he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Moreover, we are commanded to be obedient to Him. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 indicates that “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” If we do not set our hearts to go after Jesus Christ, damnation awaits us. As much as I don’t like to say it, this is the reason why I’m writing this post. I don’t want autistic individuals to suffer the damnation I just described.
Now, let’s focus on the question. Can an autistic person or an Aspie be saved by Jesus Christ and his amazing grace? Let me come right out and say it, yes they can. Can an Aspie encounter Jesus? I’m living proof that that has happened.
What puzzles me is the way fellow Christians judge those with autism by measuring their faith by fruits that they can’t bear due to their condition. Obviously, those fellow Christians need to take a good look at themselves before determining if someone with autism is saved or not.
Romans 10:9 says that if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. But if an autistic person is non-verbal but believes in his heart, what happens when he dies? I don’t want to answer that question directly. It has the potential to open a can of worms that should stay closed.
I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel 13 – 16. Isreal’s King Saul had been given a mission to wipe the Amalekites clean off the map. While the mission was to completely destroy everything, Saul kept the best sheep and cattle. The prophet Samuel knew that Saul’s heart was central to the plunder from the countries Isreal was at war with. Samuel did not break this to Saul gently. Even though Saul knew what was wrong, he lost his annointing as king which was carried over to David, the son of Jesse. Saul was considered the Fabio of Isreal in the Old Testament while David and the line of Jesse were considered nothing worth much more than street urchins. Eventually even with visual lack of strength, David showed his devotion to God by taking down the giant Goliath. David made mistakes constantly, but God knew that his heart belonged the Father.
So let’s say an autistic person always loves reading the Bible but can’t speak or type words into a computer. Let’s also say that he does nothing else besides take it all in. A Christian from a huge mega-church could go out and say that this autistic person can’t build God’s kingdom because only by speaking the Gospel or writing out their own testimony will they be able to bring others into His Kingdom.
But what if a hypothetical law has been brought into North America, and all churches had to be burned down with Christians in them? What if Christians had to be lined up to be slaughtered before an alter?
Let’s say this actually did happen and one of the church attendees was a boy with autism who had been reading the Bible and hardly doing anything else with his time besides eating and sleeping. The general who would give the order for the firing squad to kill off the Christians yells for them to get ready and aim. All the Christians cringe ready for the bullets, full of fear of dying because they didn’t win souls in a war on evangelical culture.
But wait..the autistic boy pulls out his Bible, steps out from the crowd. He looks up to heaven, and even though he’s none-verbal, screams in happiness toward the roof raising his Bible high and proud while the firing squad wets the boy up with huge slugs of metal.
After the firing squad comes to grips with the epiphany of a life they had taken, some of them walk out of the church with tears running down their faces. Some of them may even be talking to God himself and deciding to repent and explore what just happened. The general only becomes more angry and sadly guns down all the other Christians with a shotgun. The story contains no happy ending at all.
I’m sorry for creating an R-rated picture to illustrate my point that man looks at the appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). You as the reader are probably still puzzled because I didn’t directly answer the question. Maybe that child didn’t directly win people to God. Or did he? Did the child who was shot by the firing squad go to heaven? Not sure, but I am pretty sure that his cry to God came from his heart though. There are deeper ways to take this discussion but I should wrap it up shortly here.
Even with the fact that I have problems memorizing different things in the Bible due to my own struggle with Aspergers, I still encounter God and still hear him even if I don’t know Him fully yet. Spirituality is a journey. Spirituality is a relationship with God, not a religion. It’s not about knowing all the answers or conforming to something while knowing all the answers. It’s simply a life-long chase and quest for encounters with a God who wants to connect with people who live by faith.
What can we learn from this? There’s so much grey and not a lot of black and white. To me, that’s perfectly okay.
The question we need to ask isn’t if a child or friend with autism is saved. The question we need to ask is what’s in the heart of an autistic person or an Aspie when they read the Bible, participate in church, or interact with other people?