Monday, March 18, 2013

Dignity Undamaged

Some suffer from mild physical anomalies such as obesity, short stature, baldness etc. Often our society shamefully compares them with their handsome and beautiful peers. Hence, those affected are besieged by an inferiority complex. To intensify their heartache, media accentuates external beauty in all its glory. This is an incredible burden. These children of the living God are pushed into oblivion because a well-designed body is appreciated as an object of beauty.

            A very short man is burdened when society ridicules him. His burden further intensifies when he fails to secure a job he so dearly desires (e.g. airline steward). He fails, since his short stature is rejected by the airline’s minimum height policy.  

The man’s short stature was designed by God. So, he cannot be blamed, but he still carries the burden of lost dignity. Similarly, people who are obese, highly freckled/acned, or with irregular teeth carry the burden of lost dignity.

            Dignity is a very powerful word. Dignity is self-worth, honor, or respect. The healthy and handsome are more dignified over the unhealthy and ugly. The intensity of deprivation of dignity ranges from mild to severe. The popular, powerful and prominent are more dignified in our society while their less illustrious peers are dumped into the dungeons of ignominy. The world glorifies people with greater dignity.

Sadly, there are more severe hereditary medical conditions such as Schizophrenia, familial Alzheimer’s etc. Those suffering through these severe conditions may not even understand the loss of dignity; however their immediate family would suffer the loss of it.

Here is my understanding of dignity in the form of a basic equation.

Dignity = Man × (nX)

where “X” is one or a combination of: health, wealth, education, vocation, beauty, power, popularity, prominence etc., and
“n” refers to numerals ranging from -10 to 10.

Greater dignity:  “n” = 1 to 10 (1 = average & 10 = superlative)

Lesser dignity:  “n” = 0 to -10 (0 = below average & -10 = invalid)

The dignity of man is directly proportional to “X.” The greater the “X,” the greater is his dignity (self-worth, honor, and respect). Man is highly dignified when he possesses a superlative “X.” When “X” takes a negative plunge, his dignity suffers. If we consider “health” as an example, then a very healthy man would possess greater dignity. On the other extreme, being an invalid with terminal disease would destroy his dignity. This is one facet of dignity.

The other facet of dignity is, when man scales greater heights, his self-dignity swells (he is proud of his achievements). Simultaneously, when he scales greater heights, the world recognizes, appreciates and awards him. Thus his outward dignity – in the eyes of men – swells as well.

Let us proceed to the theology of dignity. Man, able or disabled, is gifted with an intrinsic dignity for he is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). However, mild or severe medical conditions seem to rob him of his intrinsic human dignity. The faulty design of man is attributed to the almighty God. It appears that God who gave man the intrinsic dignity also robs it from him because of his medical condition. Hence, it is imperative to learn the reason behind the apparently lost dignity from God’s perspective, and HIS plan for them to realize their intrinsic dignity.

First, why would God design a human being with medical conditions that apparently destroy the intrinsic human dignity? Dare I suggest two reasons!

1. For God’s glory: One can experience, enjoy and glorify God through prosperity and peril. Lazarus’ sickness was for the sake of God’s glory (John 11:4). Bible does not state that God should only be glorified through prosperity. A twice-orphaned Annie Johnston Flint glorified God through her poverty and terrible sickness, which made her totally dependent on nursing care. It was from her sick bed that she penned the wonderful hymn “He giveth more grace.” She enjoyed God’s grace during her utmost pain, and glorified God through her poems (Cf. 2 Corinthians12:8-10).

2. Because of Sin and Freewill: Ever since the fall (first sin) of Adam and Eve, mankind continues to reel under the burden of sin (Cf. Genesis 3; Romans 8:20-22). Sin and freewill are partners in crime. Smoking is injurious to health says the warning note on the cigarette pack. However, smokers ignore the warning and employ their freewill to smoke. If a pregnant woman smokes, her child is more likely to be born with birth defects, which God allows!

Would these two facts from the Bible answer the second question of how the victims of medical conditions realize their intrinsic dignity?

Fact #1: In Matthew chapter 1, some who figure in the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ are undignified: Judah and Tamar no strangers to illicit sex (Genesis 38), the prostitute Rahab (Joshua 6:25), Ruth a Moabite – a race that originated from incest (Genesis 19:30-38), the adulterer King David (even emphasized as an adulterer through the mention of Uriah’s name in 1:6), King Rehoboam the megalomaniac (Matthew 1:7, Cf. 1 Kings 12:1-24)…Could not have God chosen a better lineage? HE could have also chosen a more dignified place for the Lord’s birth, but HE did not!

Fact #2: As if HIS undignified ancestors weren’t enough, the Lord associated himself with undignified people: the short tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10; tax collectors defrauded their own people, so were undignified, and to add to his plight, Zacchaeus was short), a Samaritan woman with loose morals (John 4:17-18); Christ was known to associate with undignified sinners (Luke 15:2). Significantly, our Lord HIMSELF was accused as an undignified glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34).

Understanding dignity from God’s perspective is vital. God does not view dignity as humans do. Christians do not acquire dignity from worldly prominence, power or popularity (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18). Please recollect the “X” from my equation of dignity. The “X” for a man is JESUS CHRIST or SIN. Sin separates man from God, resulting in his undignified separation from God. If he accepts Christ as his God and Savior, then the righteousness of Christ is upon the believer. The believer then finds his dignity from the one who offers him eternal life, and not just that, he is seated in Christ and with God in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). What a gloriously dignified position! The Christian looks beyond the world, and into his God, for his dignity.

Our mediocre medical condition may degrade our body, but God, by virtue of our belief in Christ, raised us and seated us with HIM in the heavenly realms, unto eternity. Our body will perish, but our glorious position in Christ and with God will never fade or perish (Cf. 1 Peter 1:3-4). This glorious position enables a Christian to realize his intrinsic dignity.

Having said this, Satan is capable of inflicting a vicious attack into the heart of the Christian that can apparently shatter his dignity in the eyes of the world. Stay tuned to read more about this attack of Satan next week.

May God bless us all according to HIS will and pleasure. Amen. 


Anne Helena Devasahayam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Raj Richard said...

Amen to that, Helena :)God bless U much...

mathai said...

Created in His image...for His heirs of His Kingdom which has no end....a new creation...and He is still working on me. Certainly not second class. Praise God

Unknown said...

the moment i saw "balding" i knew this was for :D

the grace and kindness of our lord is awesome and unlimited...we just have to keep our eyes fixed on Him and believe that there always will be light at the end of the tunnel thru which He leads us :D

Anonymous said...

This is something I've been trying to think through. 1 Cor. 11:7 says that man is "the image and glory of God." Seems to me that posessing the "glory of God" is a part of what it means to be made in Gods image or likeness - and a component of that glory is dignity and honor, and intrinsic worth as mentioned in the blog post.

At the fall that glory was marred (Rom. 3:23 says that because we have sinned we fall short of the glory of God). But we still bear God's image and this glory and dignity is still a part of our human make-up.

Surely there is something in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ that (at least to a significant degree) brings restoration to the glory of God in us, and therefore a restoration of our dignity - regardless of our appearance or other factors. So the closer we walk with Jesus, the more we drink deeply from the wells of His grace, the more thorough the restoration of the glory (and dignity) of God in our lives.

Raj Richard said...

@ Mathai...Amen :) Certainly not second class at all....we are children of the living God :)Thank you :)

@ Benji...Remaining with Christ is our only occupation :) To glorify HIM and enjoy HIM is the purpose of our existence. U are so right :) Thank you :)

@ Anonymous...U are so right, our closer walk with Christ will enable us to realize our dignity, which never is marred by virtue of HIS grace and our faith in HIM. Thank you so much...:)

Raj Richard said...

Helena, Am sorry, I deleted your comment by oversight. Apologies.