Onward Session 4: Human Dignity

Our Soul Care Groups are going through the Onward series this fall. Different groups are on different schedules but over the last three Thursdays there have been topical posts at www.emmanuelbaptist.com/tag/onward

This post is taken from the Onward resource page.
There was a point in human history, during the days of the Roman Empire, when the church was regarded as the institution of women and slaves, two largely ignored and disdained groups of people during the first century. They weren’t treated as whole persons but rather as pieces of property and currency. These were precisely the people welcomed into the life of the early church.
Attitudes that were meant as an insult were actually a badge of honor for the church. Disenfranchised people were not only welcomed and treated with kindness in the church; they were actually regarded with importance and prominence. This radical way of viewing people reflected the values of the kingdom of God, the kingdom that stands contrary to the patterns of the world. As these early church members lived the values of the kingdom, they followed the example of their Lord, who had inaugurated and perfectly embodied the values of that kingdom.

One incident from the life of Jesus illustrates His approach to someone in desperate need:
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”  LUKE 8:40-48

This woman was suffering from much more than a physical malady; she was suffering from the
communal humiliation that came with it. A disease like this would have caused her to be ostracized from the rest of the Jewish community; she would have been regarded as untouchable. Already a woman, a second-place citizen to begin with, she was now a pariah. She existed in the shadows—forgotten, overlooked, and even hated. It’s no wonder she crept up from behind to touch only Jesus’ robe; someone like this wouldn’t dare approach from the front. Her intent was to quietly, discreetly, without anyone noticing, just feel the hem of Jesus’ clothing. What could it hurt? She had nothing to lose. But Jesus wasn’t content to let her stay in the shadows; He would not only heal her but also bring her from the darkness into the light.
When the woman was found out, she came trembling forward. It’s no wonder she was trembling; these were the same people who’d treated her as subhuman for the past 12 years, and now she was being called to stand in front of them. Yet this is precisely what Jesus had in mind. When she came out of hiding, Jesus then uttered one word that lifted up her soul and arrested the crowd’s attention: “Daughter” (v. 48).
People like this woman—those who live in the shadows, thrown away and deemed worthless and seemingly useless—are the sons and daughters of the King. As Peter noted, she certainly wasn’t the only one touching Jesus; surely she wasn’t the only one who needed something from Him. But she was the only one who made Him stop.
We could continue through the life of Jesus and find many other examples just like her—tax collectors, children, the poor, sinners—these were the people who arrested the attention of Jesus as the crowd continued to press in on Him. In the eyes of Jesus, human dignity isn’t determined by social standing, educational level, or any other mark of prominence conferred by the kingdoms of the earth. Instead, Jesus recognized that human dignity isn’t based on someone’s usefulness but on God’s image.
What the world regards as weak, foolish, and untouchable—this is the wisdom of God in the kingdom. Of course, the ultimate example of the kingdom’s upside-down values is the cross of Jesus—“Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).
The cross—the instrument of shame, the tool of torture, the inflictor of death—is the glory, inheritance, and life of those who follow Jesus.
From Russell Moore's Onward