A Person's a Person...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010  ::  

Dignity is something that I often find myself contemplating. It is such a mysterious trait of humanity. We bestow the right of dignity on people as if we are the ones deciding to whom it belongs. I personally believe that being human alone should afford the right to be treated with dignity. When I think about Adam and Eve walking the grounds of the garden with complete confidence, totally naked, I can’t help but to envy how free they must have felt. The funny thing is they didn’t know anything different, so they probably didn’t appreciate it until it was gone. Once they ate the fruit, discovered they were naked, sought to cloth themselves because of shame, and hid from God, our dignity was forever corroded and humans would spend the rest of our existence determining who was worthy of dignity and who wasn’t.
A few months ago I walked out of a home goods store and saw a man who probably didn’t have a home walking down the sidewalk a few stores away. He looked jittery and very skinny. I decided to walk a little slower to my car so I could see if he needed anything. As he came closer it looked as if he was trying to decide whether or not to ask me for some spare change, so I took the initiative. Asking him if I could by him lunch at the Hardy’s nearby took him by surprise. He looked up and then back down stared at the ground for what was an uncomfortable period of time. Finally, he broke the silence and in what I thought was an act of honesty, vulnerability, and bravery said, “No, I just really need a beer.” I thanked him for his honesty and told him I only had a dollar and some change, and then gave him what I had in my pocket. When I asked him his name, he again stood in shock and silence. He quietly answered my question in the form of a question. “Steve?” he said. I stuck out my hand to shake his and with a smile and hopefully, visible sincerity replied, “Nice to meet you, Steve.”
Do you ever think about the dignity of the people you walk past in the grocery store parking lot that need spare change because “their kids are in the car and they are just trying to get to Phoenix?” What about the dignity of the young lady who is wearing a very, very short skirt with the word ‘juicy’ written across the bottom? Or how about the dignity of the person who is holding the protest sign that says “God hates -insert horrible slang here-?” What about the dignity of the mother who doesn’t have the right papers to stay in this country legally, but humbly takes any opportunity she can to provide for her family?
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, Matthew 25:31-45 is a story that you may be familiar with. The ending is beautiful, convicting, prompting, provides opportunity to daily holy moments. To paraphrase Jesus it says, whatever you did for people in some sort of need, you did for me. Isn’t that exciting and terrifying all at the same time? In looking at people with dignity, giving to others in need even if it is just a smile and a handshake, you are doing the same thing to Jesus. The terrifying thought is every time I look down my long judgmental nose at someone, refuse a bottle of water, roll my eyes at the scantily clad girl, scream at someone to go back to their own @#*$ country I’m doing all of those things to the Jesus I love so deeply.
My heart aches to be obedient in the split second decisions I’m given on a daily basis to love Jesus. He has showed unfathomable grace to me. He has clothed me with strength and dignity. My security is found in him alone. My prayer is that I will intensely reflect these precious gifts to people around me and lead others to do the same.

5 important comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Susie B, said...

I love the way Jesus taught us to love!!!

Shauna said...

Amen and amen. Love your heart sister, your desire for obedience. It challenges and humbles me. That verse from Proverbs 31 has been on my heart A LOT lately. To be clothed in strength and dignity, and to know that I (and everyone) has dignity because God has bestowed it upon us. Our job is to recognize and uphold it in others. Thanks for your honesty. Love you!

christy.anne said...

I very much like this. I admit that I struggle in the split second. Sometimes I don't know how to truly show people the dignity I long to, and I feel that to fail a little is to fail a lot. I feel like a liar to tell a homeless person that I don't have my wallet with me, even when I don't (like walking to and from campus.) They get that all the time. I feel anxious that I see the same homeless frequently. And with having little to give, I fear that a smile, an act of humanity will not be enough. At other times, I forget that my possessions are not my own, but God's. I forget that my provision is not in my own hands, but God's. So I avoid. But humanizing another person is never too little. And God is big enough for me to give outside my means. I want to have the faith and the urgency to allocate my resources such that the greater margin is left for God's kingdom, and the lesser for my own cares. And Jesus healed emotional scars that ran deeper than the physical ones by simply giving people their dignity. I am frequently challenged in this. I deeply desire to lavish the love of Christ on all people, for they bear the image of our Savior. Always more to learn :)

Chris Taney said...

Christy.anne, I love the reminder that "what I have is not my own." So often we get so caught up in "what I have" that we forget who it came from. The truth remains that that which we selflessly give we keep, that which we selfishly keep is taken away. It's true of money, privileges, opportunities, and possessions.

Angel, I love what you said about remembering that when we ignore our brothers and sisters, we ignore Jesus Christ. Although we selfishly keep from a stranger, we are actually selfishly keeping from our giving Savior.

Now, when we give, we give risking that the people that are begging will use it for drugs, or alcohol, or sustain a lifestyle of begging, ie. people that beg in the day and drive home to a 4 bedroom house at night. With such a bad reputation, much of the time we would rather not support their decisions (especially when we think they could be lazily living off of us). Therefore we withhold all substance to everyone begging of us because we generalize them. Does that make it right though? What if we run across someone that actually does need the money, it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to serve, even if we're "convinced" they're just faking.

These are the thoughts that I've been dealing with as I pass the begging stranger. These are the ideas that are slowly changing my responses to these beggars. Because I would hate to be caught at the judgment day, guiltily watching my friends and neighbors testify that they lived a tough life, and few people (not me) were willing to help.

Laura K. Moore said...

read this for this for first time today. 3.5 years after you posted it. and a wave of kindness and dignity-encouraging "lets-do-this" just washed over me. :) thank you angel!

"my heart aches to be obedient in the split second decisions" stood out to me most. i've been over-thinking ministry a lot lately. praying for a his grace to tune my heart more so that it is less burned about the "hunting for opportunities" and more delighted to just move when He says so.

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