Dignity: The Heart of God

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
—Matthew 7:12

Like Hillel before him, Yeshua (Jesus) summarized all the Law of God, often said to contain 613 commandments, into a single sentence. But I want to take this one step further and condense it into three syllables: Dignity.

Our culture doesn't talk a lot about honor, but it's still a fundamental value in our interactions. We aren't as transparent in our honor code as, say, the Japanese, but we all want to be treated with respect. We all care what others think of us, and no one wants to put himself in a position where his dignity is on the line. This sort of timid pride causes us to treat each other with less dignity. We expect them to acknowledge our value, but we resist showing the same courtesy in return for risk of appearing foolish. And when we do outwardly humble ourselves in front of others, it is nearly always in order to gain favor with them, not because of genuine respect.

But we aren't called to be like this. Our mandate is so much higher, and it far exceeds the letter of the Law. Truly treating one another with dignity is a struggle for everyone. We may never be in the position to touch a leper and profess him clean, or to praise the faith of a woman disgraced by an issue of blood that keeps her from the house of God for almost two decades. But all of us daily find ourselves in positions where someone we don't want to be around wants our time. All of us face situations where we deeply desire something that doesn't belong to us, and we can either covet or surrender our desires for the sake of the other person.

Dignity is taking a brother or sister aside in private and speaking vulnerably, then accepting what is said without resentment. Dignity is rising in the presence of the elderly and offering your seat. Dignity is taking the time to engage with a nuisance child instead of pushing him aside in disinterest. Dignity is listening to people when they speak rather than spinning your brain to think of the next thing you want to say. Dignity is forgiving those who wrong you seventy-seven times without resentment.

Dignity is difficult. That's a major understatement, but I like the alliteration. Treating others with dignity is the heart of Torah—it's the heart of God himself. As I said in my post last night, God is a passionate lover who gives of himself limitlessly to woo his bride, even though he has every right to subject her and make her his slave. While we should save the romance for only our spouse, we should treat each other with the same kind of humility and respect—even if it means placing our own honor in the hands of someone else who can either lift us up or tear us down. The world calls this weakness, but Yeshua calls this meekness.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
—Matthew 5:2-12

“So if there is any encouragement in Messiah, any comfort from love, any participation in the spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Messiah Yeshua, who, though he is in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be seized, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua ‘every knee should bow,’ in heaven and on earth and under the earth, ‘and every tongue confess’ because of the Lord Yeshua Messiah, to the glory of God, the Father.”1
—Philippians 2:1-11

  1. This translation will be explained in an upcoming post.


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