In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul answers questions about the resurrection, and in vs. 35 he introduces his reply to this one:
“How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” (1 Cor 15:35)
Paul isn’t one to mince words, and take the first question straightaway, giving the logical answer that “how are the dead raised?”–by first dying (vs. 36). Drop mic.
Okay, now that we’ve got that taken care of, Paul’s more descriptive response to: With what kind of body will they come back?
Our world often brings an ableist lens to this. Ableism is at its core, an assumption that disability/disabled people/people with disabilities are inferior, “bad,” or otherwise in need of correction/fixing to be “normal.”
Yet, Paul’s writing does not ask or require us to bring abelism to his response.
And what you sow [in death, vs. 36] is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. (1 Cor 15:37-39)
Take away? Different people have different bodies, in ways visible and invisible. Difference in bodies is normal, not inherently “bad.”
Now, Paul takes the next step, contrasting heavenly [resurrected] bodies and earthly ones:
There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. (1 Cor 15:40-41)
What’s the key difference Paul highlights between earthly bodies and resurrection bodies? Brightness.
Not “fixing” of disability through a lens of abelism (where an “inferior” person without agency needs a “cure” to be “normal” or happy), not elimination of difference, instead it’s “brightness” of a different type, kind, or magnitude. [Note that Jesus’ resurrected body has a physical difference from the “typical” (John 20:27)].
Our resurrected bodies are transformed, but not in an ableist narrative. Paul comments on this transformation:
It [the body] is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Cor 15:42-44)
Corruptible/dishonorable/weak/natural…this description of our earthly bodies applies to everyone. Our resurrected bodies will be different than our earthly ones in brightness, and also be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. None of these descriptions require a “special fixing” of disabled people / people with disabilities. It’s a transformation universally, yet uniquely applicable to every human being. God knows each of us intimately, in the secret of our soul, in a way no other human or spiritual being does. This blessing of transformation is not from “disabled” to “abled” (or any other such “inferior” to “superior” false categories or “isms”), but from our present created body to brightness, incorruptibility, gloriousness, power, and a fully spiritual unity.
Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one. (1 Cor 15:29)
What shall we be?
We shall bear the image of the heavenly one.
There is mystery, yet concrete beauty. Brightness. Glorification. Incorruptibility. Hope.
As it’s written by a different New Testament writer, to a different community of 1st century believers:
What we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed- we shall be like him [God], for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
When we are like God, we will (among many other things!) intimately know each other’s brightness without the earthly biases of abelism (or racism, nationalism, or any lenses that degrade the worth, value, or dignity of another person).
Many Christians call this week of Easter, the eight days (or Octave) of Easter, bright week. Let us embrace life eternal already offered to us in part, in the here and now–seeing each other’s brightness, as God does, with differences (including disability) that are a part of our common identity in God’s image.
God is working. Transformation. Renewal. Resurrection.