Human dignity it is not a privilege, nor is it a benefit. It is not something that one can earn. And yet, with few exceptions, throughout history when dignity is given, it is entirely conditional, .
Dignity is not earned by being wanted, living in a particular country, being of a certain ethnic background, belonging to a particular social class, being of a specific weight, having a desirable appearance, behaving in a moral way, behaving in a way that celebrates no moral value at all, being attracted to the opposite or same gender. Dignity cannot, nor will it ever, be earned.
As I reflect on history I am reminded of periods where human dignity has been stripped. In places where women are to be owned, where class systems make individuals untouchable- below even animals, where one’s heritage as a certain religious or ethnic group has marked them as pigs and they were sent to slaughter, where people come from different family lines and therefore neighbor killed neighbor, where explorers took land that was not theirs and relegated natives to impossible land, where imaginary lines were drawn to keep others out and to let only certain others in. Where words maliciously undermine the humanity of others and biased opinions held with no grace seek to destroy others.
This world has seen the pillaging of its people because of made up cast systems and requirements for human dignity to be given and shown. There is not one country responsible for any of this. In fact, we, you and I, whomever we happen to be, each give and take dignity from others daily. We put those we disagree with down to raise that which we agree with up. We yell at and smear the character of people by ripping things out of context and using their, even kindnesses, against them as if malicious. We judge people who behave in ways with which we do not agree, and we speak of “them and they” in tones of judgement and less than narratives.
Every single person, every single nation has played a role in the stripping of human dignity of another.
I am a lover of Jesus. I desire to follow after Him. To learn from His way. To live as He did. Jesus, spoke the truth, he called the religious elite to the hypocrisy of their behavior and he also loved them, welcoming conversation and friendship when it was sought out. Jesus touched the untouchables, he gave women roles and invited them to lead, he chose the ordinary to be a part of the extraordinary, he welcomed children, and would restore not only individual’s bodies to health, but also would restore his or her dignity as well.
Jesus knows that on earth we seek to earn our dignity through work, ownership, appearance, citizenship, class, race, orientation, gender, and the opinions of every person around us. It is exhausting and it is impossible.
Jesus invites us to stop our striving. He invites us to believe Him and what He has to say about us. He invites us into HIS family. “To those who receive and those who believe in His name, He gives the right to be called Children of God. Children not born of natural decent or human decision or of a husband’s will, but born of God.” And, as a member of His family we have the honor of inviting others to know that they too are born of God. WE get to declare that no, you can’t earn your dignity, but there is one who gives it to you, all you do is receive it.
I love Jesus. I love him for who he is. I love him for how he lived. I love him for his power over all that seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. I love him for his generosity in lovingkindness. I love him for his invitation to belong to his family. I love Jesus. I love him for his humility, obedience, and grace. I love Jesus. I love Jesus for he is the way, he is truth and he will always lead to life. I love Jesus. I love how he always welcomed the stranger, the alien, the widow, the unclean, the undesirable, the religious. I love Jesus.
I am so thankful that his way never ceased giving dignity to every human. I am so thankful that his only condition was for us to receive his love and believe him to be true. And that, in so many ways. isn’t a condition as much as it is truly the only way love can be experienced. For love can only be experienced when it is received and one only receives what they believe.
As the United States argues viciously, carelessly, harmfully, in the media and on-line – as political parties rip one another apart, as broken systems evidence themselves and hate is thrown around like food in a cafeteria food fight – even by those claiming that love wins, I am grateful that it isn’t a president, a news anchor, a loud and argumentative friend on Facebook, a spokesperson for various religious systems or even my own self, that has the final say on whether or not I or any other person has rightfully earned his or her dignity. For true dignity is given by Jesus alone and can never be stripped away by any person.
So let us not stop loving each other.
Let us be loud in lovingkindness.
Let us sing the songs of goodness, truth and beauty.
Let us silence our loud argumentative voices and instead quiet ourselves to listen.
Let us seek first the Kingdom of Jesus, look to Him, learn from Him and seek to live like Him in the world.
Oh my friends, it is time to lay our weapons down and to look to Jesus. May he remind you of who you are and may you then, out of that truth, remind the person next to you, not with words alone but with every action and intention of your heart… may the ripple effect be one of love, generosity, kindness, and hope.
And may dignity be restored.