Dignity For All!

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There’s a story told, probably a lie, about two friendly little microbes swimming merrily along in the bloodstream of a horse. As these two microbes are doing the backstroke, one of them becomes discontented and he tells his friend, “I’m getting tired of living life in this vein.” And so he shakes hands with his little friend and they have sort of a tearful parting, and this little microbe moves over to a neighboring artery. At this precise moment, a veterinarian is giving this horse a huge shot of penicillin, (the plot thickens at this point). The penicillin runs directly up the artery and kills our little microbe friend. The moral of the story then, is, don’t change streams in the middle of a horse.

Or more appropriate to series on the subject of the church, no matter how discontented we may become with the church, and there will be times of discontentment, it is the Lord’s will that we not give up on His Church.

This is why I have been preaching about not only believing in but also, loving the Church. Last week, I believe in and love the church because the head of the church invites each and every one of us to participate in the most vital aspect of His Church: Reaching people for Christ! Prior to that, I believe in and love the church of Jesus Christ because it was designed by Jesus to be the primo place where people find community, healing, and love. And prior to that, I believe in and love the church of Jesus Christ because it is the place where you and I as followers of Jesus have a great opportunity to grow into Christlikeness.

Today, I believe in and love the church of Jesus Christ because it is the only institution in society that provides perspective to convey dignity to all human beings. For Biblical evidence of that premise, I turn to:

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SCRIPTURE

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.

But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.

And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:12-19

SERMON

Dignity For All!

Randy K’Meyer

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it had crippling depression, by being constantly reminded that its life was worthless to those who looked down on it as a mere piece of meat, not a living, breathing creature, worthy of respect and dignity. It didn’t want to live in a constant state of worthlessness, fear, and insignificance, knowing that its only purpose in life would be death. So it escaped the farm and took off to the highway, and though the creature still feared its ultimate demise, it was relieved to be free from an impending doom.

So in short… to get to the other side.

According to Merriman’s online dictionary, the definition of ‘dignity’ is “the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.” 1

We can consider dignity in two dimensions: (1) our own sense of dignity, and, (2) the dignity we convey to others.

And do you suppose that there is a relationship between to two? Of course, our own sense of dignity, or lack thereof, will have a direct impact on whether or not, and to what degree, we treat others with dignity.

I would say that the 15 year old freshman in Georgia who drug his female teachers to the floor and wailed on her this past week doesn’t carry very much of his own dignity. I would say that the parents who started a brawl resulting in the death of a 60 year old man at a high school basketball game in New Jersey this past week didn’t have very much self-worth. And what can we say about the five police officers in Memphis?

He or she who pays attention to what’s going on in this world know that human dignity is in short supply. Too many people feel like our chicken friend; no dignity.

In an article in the Guardian, titled, Human Dignity in Danger, the author states, “When we abandon efforts to uphold human dignity, we forfeit the essential meaning of being human, … and what follows is duplicity and folly, corruption and tyranny, and the endless stream of humanitarian crises that we see in the world today.” 2

So my premise is that the world, and maybe some of us, are in desperate need of a renewed sense of dignity for ourselves and for all human beings. And I believe in and love the church because the church of Jesus Christ is the one institution in society that provides the perspective to convey that dignity to all human beings.

Why do I say that?

Because we honor and revere a book that champions human dignity; that conveys meaning and significance and value and worth to every human being who has ever lived.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’ So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

In the very act of creation, God imputed dignity to all of His creation, because He loves that which He created.

And when Adam and Eve did their best to squander that which God had given,
the Creator went to extreme measures to restore dignity to fallen humankind.

“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (5:18).

C. S. Lewis helps us get a handle on this idea of imputed dignity. He says, take a fraction and let the numerator be 100 and let 100 represent the man who beats the numbers; he doesn’t live to three score and ten, he lives to be 100 years. And in the denominator, put the combined dynasties of China, 5,000 years. The man lives 100 years, society lives 5,000 years. Therefore, society must be 50 times more important than man. Therefore, if society is more important than a man, then a man is just the raw material that you feed into the sausage grinder of society to produce the sausages of societal accomplishment.

In the words of the 1960’s Russian dictator, Nakita Kruschev, when confronted by an American journalist who asked about the terrible lack of human dignity inside Russian prisons housing political dissidents, “you have to break eggs to make an omelet.” Therefore; human beings have become a means to an end in modern society.

But C. S. Lewis says, suppose that isn’t the way it works. Supposing that man doesn’t live 100 years and then turn toes up. Supposing man is, as the Bible says, eternal. Now it’s a little hard to write eternity in a number. We could set every computer printer in the world to printing out zeros and let them go at it for as long as you wish and they will still never come close to writing eternity.

So we have to scale it back to get our brains around it, so let’s take a billion. If you took a billion dollar bills and sewed then end to end, they would go around the equator 2 ½ times. So now we take the man we talked about earlier and in his place we put a billion! Put below the line the combined dynasties of China, 5,000 years and what happens? Suddenly man is infinitely more important than society.

This is the essential Christian message! In his letter to his pastor-friend, Titus 2:11, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.”

Everything around us that seems so solid and natural is an illusion. It will be at some point in history be folded up as an old garment and disappear. But every person that God created in His image will be alive somewhere a billion years from now.

Practically speaking, what do we, as the church, and as individual Christians,
do with that truth?

In seminary, I learned about a man who went to Ecuador 25 working for Wickliffe Bible Translators. He walked into a village of the Cofan Indians, only 600 on the face of the earth. The Cofan Indians had no written language. So he points to his nose and says, “nose.” And when they catch on, they said their word for nose and he took their word and with the phonetic language, he wrote their word. Similarly, he said, “eye, ear, hair,” they all had hair. And over the course of 24 years, he reduced their sounds to a written language and then taught them to read their own language.

Then he took the New Testament and translated it into the Cofan language. Then he taught them to read their NT and he told them about Jesus Christ. Now, why didn’t somebody take those 600 Cofan Indians and put them on a cattle truck and take them to Quito, teach them pigeon Spanish and how to drive a taxicab? Why do you bother with a group of 600 Cofan Indians? Why does a man with 6 years of graduate education in Biblical studies, go down to Ecuador to work with a group of people who are never going to contribute in any way to the American church scene?

And the answer is that one little Cofan Indian is worth more than everything traded on Wall Street from now until the kingdom comes!

Why do Christian people answer God’s call to go into the Ghettos of Chicago and work with black children who are never going to have any clout in this world, who will probably struggle for mere existence? Why would they go to Chicago or Nairobi, Indonesia, or wherever the Lord leads them to go to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Because the church of Jesus Christ understands that human beings have dignity and value and worth imputed to them by God Himself.

I believe in and love the church of Jesus Christ because it is the one institution
that stands in the midst of our fallen world and reminds that world that the dignity of the world lies in the human being himself, not in the world that is around him. Not in the baubles and trinkets of society, people are where it’s at baby!

How do we know? Because the Bible says, “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are” (I John 3:1).

Dennis Farthing, a missionary translating the Bible into an African Tribe’s language talks about a way he came to communicate the fullness of God’s love. He notes the verbs for this language consistently end with 1 of 3 vowels depending upon the usage . . . ‘a,’ ‘i,’ or ‘u.’ But the word for love ‘dv’ was only found with an ‘a’ and ‘i’ . . . why no ‘u’?”

In an effort to truly understand the concept of love in this African language, the missionary began to question a group of the tribe’s elders. “Can you dva your wife?”
“Yes, that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions; she would be loved as long as she remained faithful and took good care of her husband.”
“Could you dvi your wife?”
“Yes, that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”
“Well then, could you dvu your wife?”
Everyone in the room laughed; “Of course not!” they replied.
“If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never cooked a meal and even committed adultery; you would have to keep on loving her. No, we would never say you could dvu your wife.”

The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about the love of God and then he said, “My friends, I am here to tell you that God dvus you.”

This missionary says there was complete silence for about five minutes. Then tears started to trickle down faces of the elderly men of the tribe. Finally, they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over and over, while at the same time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even if we did wrong in His eyes.”

Have you embraced the fact that God dvu’s you? He loves you because of Who HE is and not because of who you are or what you have done! You are known and loved by Him Who loves you just because of Who He is.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

“Now I’ve found the greatest love of all, since You laid down Your life, the greatest sacrifice.”

There once was a man named George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town. One Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old birdcage, and set it on the Communion Table alongside the body and blood of Christ. Eyebrows were raised, and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

“I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this birdcage. On the bottom of the cage were three little birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, ‘What you got there, son?’
‘Just some old birds,’ came the reply.
‘What are you gonna do with them?’ I asked.
‘I got some cats at home,’ he smiled a devilish smile, ‘and they like birds.’

The pastor was silent for a moment. ‘How much do you want for those birds, son?’
‘Why, you don’t want these birds, mister; they’re just plain old field birds, they don’t sing, they ain’t pretty, they aren’t worth anything but to be eaten.’
‘How much?’ the pastor asked again.
The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, ‘$ 10?’
The pastor reached into his pocket and took out a ten-dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand and in a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage, opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars, persuaded the birds out, setting them free.”
Well, that explained the empty birdcage sitting next to the holy sacrament. And then the pastor began to tell another story.

“Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting and said to Jesus, ‘Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist; got ’em all!’
‘What are you going to do with them?’ Jesus asked.
Satan replied, ‘Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to disrespect
and hate and abuse and even kill each other.’
‘And what will you do when you get done with them?’ Jesus asked.
‘Oh, I’ll kill them forever,’ Satan glared proudly.
‘How much do you want for them?’ Jesus asked.
‘Oh, you don’t want those people; they ain’t no good, they don’t have any value. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don’t want those people!!”
‘How much?’ Jesus asked again.
Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, ‘Your very life.’
Jesus said, ‘DONE!’ then He paid the price.

The pastor picked up the cage, opened the door and he walked from the pulpit as the congregation stood to sing, “Amazing Grace.”


1 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dignity

2 Human Dignity Is in Danger, Ai Weiwei, Guardian News, and Media
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/01/human-dignity-danger-ai-weiwei

Randy K'Meyer

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