This article first appeared more than 11 years ago in Heartlight. Please help us keep on the web by supporting us with your prayers, encouragement, and participation in our June donor drive. Thanks!

Did you hear about the pilot who landed his 737 jet on an abandoned World War II era landing strip? The correct runway was nearly five miles away! "It was essentially pilot error ..." the airline official said.

Yeah, no joke!

As horrible as this sounds, haven't you done the same thing? Oh sure, it wasn't with an airliner, but haven't you come down in the wrong place before? Maybe you said something inappropriate, falsely judged someone's motives, did something embarrassing at the wrong moment, made a gigantic boo-boo at a public occasion, or ruined the mood of a tender moment. We come down in the wrong place a whole lot. It's just part of being human! None of us is perfect ... and most of us are far from it!

A number of years ago, I attended the funeral of the brother of a dear friend. He was born with Down Syndrome. The service was wonderful and sweet. But it was based on an assumption that struck me as tremendously flawed: "When this sweet man gets to heaven, he will be made whole and perfect like we are."

But didn't Jesus say that in his Kingdom the greatest person is a servant, that love is the cardinal virtue, that the last will be first, that the least will be greatest, and that unless we become like little children we won't get into the Kingdom of Heaven! What Jesus' words tell me is that we have it wrong. In the areas of life which matter most, instead of this sweet man being more like us, in heaven we'll be more like him.

So much of what we value comes down in the wrong place — how we look, the titles we hold, the money we make, our physical and our mental capabilities. Yet the things that matter most, things like unrestrained joy, unfeigned kindness, expressive love, unmitigated wonder, unreserved forgiveness, and un-coerced service are often found most in those our world regards as broken, deformed, handicapped, or retarded.

While the politically correct police have sought to reform our terminology, our bias and bigotry have only deepened as more and more of these who are more like heaven are never given the opportunity to grace our earth. That sort of makes an airplane coming down on the wrong landing strip seem pretty insignificant.

None of us should underestimate the difficulties of raising a child with "special challenges," but we must also learn to value those who are "precious in his sight." Otherwise I'm afraid we will find our "more perfect" children crash landing in many wrong places because the compass we give them is false and the place we land is in the wrong place.

What should we do?

In several Scandinavian countries, Down Syndrome people were once regarded as angels. Yet more and more in modern cultures, we tend to use more politically correct language to describe these precious people while doing less to protect them legally and value them socially.

What can we do as believers to make our church communities a place of safety where these children and adults are valued?

I'd love to hear from you about this on my blog, especially those who have Down Syndrome siblings or children: