A Revolution of Dignity

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Dignity is defined as:
1. the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect
Or
2. a composed or serious manner or style.
3. a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.

Though we don’t use the word “dignity” very often anymore –  if we’re honest, we actual wrestle with it a lot.
Some of us struggle with keeping a “composed or serious manner” more than others (present company included), but that’s not so much what I’m talking about.  We struggle with our own dignity – our own feelings of being worthy of respect or honour.
Not only because of what we have or haven’t done, but often the notion that we are dignified just because we exist.
And we struggle with treating others with dignity – most obviously those we disagree with or oppose, but even those we are closest with at times.
Our family and friends.

So while at first glance the “revolutionary-ness” (is that a word?!?!) of the inherent dignity of humanity seems questionable. Isn’t human dignity obvious?
But when we dig deeper we realize this concept seems to be a given because most of us have had the absolute privilege of being raised in a society founded upon Judeo-Christian values. And that if we were to actually live out that truth, the results would truly be world-changing.
This week, lets revel in the revolution of dignity together.

Day 1: Dignity for you

Slow down: Begin today by slowing down your breathing, taking 2-5 minutes (as long as  you can manage) in silence.
When you breathe in say/think: “Jesus”, When you breathe out “you love me.”

Read: Matthew 5:1-12

Reflect:
Which of Jesus’ descriptions at the beginning of his sermon best articulates how you feel today?
Are you poor-in-spirit? Depressed? Hopeless?
Are you mourning? Is your heart grieved and sad?
Are you feeling meek? Worn out? Beaten up?
Are you hungry for right-living? Do you long for more of Jesus?
Are you feeling merciful? Full of compassion and empathy? Or are you in need of mercy?
Are you feeling the burden of making peace in your relationships?  Is there conflict that you are able to have influence on?
Are you being persecuted? Disrespected? Abused?

Talk to Jesus about it. In your journal, or just aloud, express how you are feeling to him.
Notice that Jesus isn’t telling you to get over it. He isn’t shaming you for how you are feeling, or exhorting you to do something with the influence you have, or telling you to “suck it up, buttercup”.
No.
He is telling you that you – no matter how you are feeling or what you are doing – are beloved and blessed.
You are worthy and wanted. You are respectable and chosen.
Thank him for the dignity He has bestowed on you simply because you are you.

Day 2: Dignity for your “others”
Read: Matthew 5:13-37

The chapters we are reading this week all come from a sermon Jesus preached that is often referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”. In this big block of teaching, Jesus explained how God’s kingdom actually works – and how everyone is invited to be apart of this new way of living.
To get some more insight on this, you should check out the first 5 minutes of this video from the Bible Project:

And when He says everyone, He means everyone.
The poor, the lowly, those who seem to have it all together, and those who don’t.
We are all invited in.
And then, he raises the bar again.
He says not only is everyone welcome, but everyone is valued and honoured and wanted.
He gives each one of us dignity, and then explains to us how to treat others with dignity as well.

Reflect:
Make a chart in your notes that looks like this:
I’ll start it for you.

ActionOld Way/DefinitionNew Way/DefinitionWho have I done this to?What do I need to do now?
MurderTaking someone’s life   
Grudges    
Unsettled arguments/Fights    
     
     
     

 

Pray: Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the ways you have mistreated the “others” in your life – not for condemnation but so that you can make things right. Ask for help in knowing what to do next.
Accept Jesus’ unconditional love and forgiveness and then give it to others this week!

Day 3: Dignity for your “enemies”
Read: Matthew 5:38-48, 7: 1-6

When you hear the word “enemy” you might have a name or an image come to mind immediately. I used to joke about my “arch nemesis” from my teenage summer-camp days ( I know, hard to believe right? How could someone not LOVE me?!?!?!). But an enemy isn’t only someone…it could be something.
Webster’s dictionary defines enemy as:
1one that is antagonistic to another especially one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent
2something harmful or deadly
3aa military adversary
ba hostile unit or force

Reflect:
In light of this, and after reading the passages from Matthew, make a list of your “enemies”.
It could be a someone, or a something – but write down anything that you seem to be at odds wity.

Now, be a revolutionary and pray for them!
Pray life over those that are hurting you.
Pray blessing over those who curse you.
Pray for freedom from that which is harmful to you.
Pray for deliverance from that which is keeping you in bondage.

And ask Jesus to help you trust in Him –  that judgement and retribution and justice will come from the true King exactly when it is supposed to.

Day 4: Dignity for the Least of these
Read: Matthew 6:1-24, 7:15-23

Yesterday we wrestled with an aspect of Jesus’ upside down kingdom that is hard to take – giving our enemies dignity.
I have some bad news.
Today isn’t any easier.
Because today we need to examine our hearts and our motives towards those “in need”.
Those that are deemed “less-than”.
The marginalized. The oppressed.

Now, maybe the first thing you think of when you hear “in need” is the poor or homeless. Or maybe your mind goes to the Kids in Crisis Centre in Guinea, West Africa. Or maybe you have another ministry/humanitarian effort that comes to mind.
But try to expand your thinking a little.
Who do you know that is in need?
Is there a kid in your class who has worn out shoes, or really small lunches?
Is there a family on your street who seem to be struggling to get by?
Is there a person at your work who is aloof, or guarded?
Is there a group that you know has been mistreated/maligned by society and need to experience the love and dignity that Jesus offers?

In Jesus’ teaching today we are confronted with the fact that we are called to give and pray and fast and value those that are deemed unlovable, unreachable, unwanted. And we are called to do it quietly and consistently. Not for credit or renown – but instead because they are worthy of dignity.

Reflect:
1. What keeps you from moving towards the people you know/suspect are in need around you?
2. What is one small thing you could quietly do to bless “the least of these” today?

Day 5: Dignity for Always
Read: Mattthew 6: 25-34, 7:7-14, 24-29

As we wrap up this “Dignity Revolution Week” (catchy title right?) I just wanted to remind you that this is GOOD NEWS!!!!
You are loved. And valued. And honoured. And respected.
Not just today.
But always.
Always and always.
In this never-ending season of worry and stress and fear (thanks covid-19) I wanted to remind you that you don’t need to worry.
Jesus isn’t fickle.
He doesn’t bestow on you honour only to take it away.
He isn’t interested in you for a moment and then distracted by the next new thing.
He is in this for the long haul with you.
In our [email protected] classes we often use the awesome videos produced by saddleback kids to explain scripture. And I just loved this one – have a watch:

Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about Jesus is that He never gives up on us.
So we don’t need to worry about our standing with him, or whether we’ve worn out welcome.
You are His. Forever and ever.
Amen

Reflect and Praise!

Spend the rest of your time today just thanking and praising God for the way He loves you!
Here is a familiar song that reminds us of the constant, never-changing love of Jesus. Be blessed, dear ones!