OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #352 The Value and Dignity of All Humanity
Wind – it is a constant here in Manitoba. I can’t decide whether it is windier here or back home in the Maritimes. Several times I have gone running and almost tripped as the wind caught my feet. How is it that I can go for a bike ride and it be against the wind in both directions?
It has been a few weeks since events in Charlottesville. In case you missed it, do a quick Google search.
The news cycle has moved on, and sadly we see the devastation of flooding in Houston and India. Please pray for these and other folks.
Even still, Charlottesville has been on my mind. So much has been said and written it feels like a mighty wind blowing – not a hurricane, but dangerous still. So much has only added to the storm of words. But I wanted to draw us back to the still, calm voice of the One who can best guide us so that we are not blown back and forth on whatever wind comes our way. This OnFire is a little longer than others, and more didactic, but I tried to keep it condensed.
The Dignity and Worth of All Humanity
All people regardless of race, nationality, social status, and sex, have value and dignity. This is the principle we find in scripture from the very beginning.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness...
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
There are some simple things we can take from these verses. First, humans bear the image of God. That is, we have qualities and characteristics which mirror qualities and characteristics of God. Theologians debate what this exactly means, but qualities like creativity and a sense of justice are part of this.
Next, there is no qualification for race or nationality. All humanity bears the image of God.
Finally, there is no exception for male or female. Both bear the image of God. There is something about being male that reflects the image of God, and something about being female which bears the image of God.
All humans bear the image of God, regardless of race or sex. This is important - we cannot look at someone different from us and see anything less than another person who bears the image of God, just as we do.
This is the foundation for the dignity and worth of ALL people
God’s Concern for the Foreigner / Alien / Stranger
The dignity and worth of all people is repeated and reinforced in scripture.
…but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
With regard to the Sabbath, God not only commanded rest for the Hebrew people, but also for the immigrants. It would have been easy for the Hebrews to be legalistic and have the resident aliens do the work instead. But this violates the principle of the value and dignity of all people. Rest was for everyone, not just one particular group. Notice also the protections for age, sex, and nationality.
Provision for the Poor and Vulnerable
The principle of the dignity and value of all people is once again demonstrated in scripture as we see God’s provision for the poor and the newcomer. While our instinct says to look after our own first and foremost, there must be provision for the poor and vulnerable because all have value and dignity.
Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.
I notice several things here. God did not declare that all the resources would be held for the Hebrews alone. This kind of protectionist instinct is not present in these verses.
There is a personal cost to kindness and compassion. By not harvesting absolutely everything, there was less for the farmers. Kindness sometimes comes with personal cost, but we trust in God to provide also for our needs.
When we demonstrate kindness and compassion, we mirror God’s character of love.
God’s Concern for Justice for All
There is to be no separate system of justice - all are to be treated with dignity and value. In fact, God is especially concerned if we ill-treat or abuse people, all the more so if we take advantage of them when they are vulnerable. This is a matter of justice, and we see it in the Bible. God will ultimately extend justice where there is oppression and abuse.
Here is a very short sample of passages demonstrating God’s concern for justice for all. There are so many more in the Bible.
The Lord is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
2 Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
3 How long, Lord, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, Lord;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless…
This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.
From these and other passages we understand that true justice does not regard nationality, socio-economic status, or sex. In this we see the value and dignity of all people.
Salvation is Available to ALL
Galatian 3:26 -28
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Salvation is not limited to a particular group. The availability of salvation to all indicates the value and dignity of all humanity.
This is just a small smattering of passages I could have referenced. I would love to hear from you other indications of the value and dignity of all people we find in scripture. I know there are more.
I don’t want to leave us here, however. I see some concrete actions we can take in light of what we find in scripture about this topic.
1) We must examine our own hearts and motives. Where there is hatred and prejudice in our own hearts, we must recognize it and repent.
2) We must love our neighbours. Sacrificially. Scripture has lots to say about this.
Most of us will never be in a spot to truly influence government policy around immigration, language, refugees, or other controversial policies. So I think we waste a lot of breath and energy in outrage and endless talking. The rubber hits the road in our own neighbourhoods. What kind of neighbours will we be?
3) Pray for our leaders, regardless of their political stripes. Again, scripture is clear about this. I see a lot of Christian posts designed to criticize or discredit politicians with whom we disagree. I understand - politics is deeply felt and people are passionate. But we are called to pray anyway, and not for their misfortune!
1 Timothy 2:1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is not my normal type of OnFire. It is a lot longer, and more didactic. But I saw an opportunity to help us understand the foundational issues of dignity and the value of all humanity. In the end I hope it helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Married to Jan, Troy is a chaplain and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published August 30, 2017. *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email email@example.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com