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.