Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
It’s so easy to reply, “I will, with God’s help.” Of course, why would I not strive for justice and peace for all people? Why would I not respect the dignity of every human being?
Well, because sometimes it’s hard.
It’s easy to scoot over to make room in your pew for a visitor, but is it easy when they come in dirty and disheveled?
It’s easy to say thank you to our servers, but is it easy when your order is wrong and your food is cold?
It’s easy to want the best for people, but what if those people wear clothes you don’t like and speak in ways you don’t approve of?
Suddenly, those people are not the human beings we are asked to respect. Suddenly, those people are only worthy of our snide remarks, our social media complaints, and our silent judgement.
By our own understanding and by our own standards, sure.
But here’s the deal: we did not answer the question with, “Yes, I will do so on my own.” We said, “I will, with God’s help.” God gave us help by sending his Son to show us how to do it. Jesus was that guy with dirty feet, giving people answers they didn’t want to hear, while speaking in ways they didn’t approve of. He showed us how to love and serve the loveless, the sick, the distressed, the dirty, the ones who come in late to church, the ones who get your order wrong, and the ones who live their lives in a way you don’t understand.
That’s how they knew who He was. Not by His words, but by His actions.
That’s how they should know who we are too. People should know that we are a part of the Jesus Movement by how we treat the people who make our McDonald’s milkshakes and not by how many times we post on social media.
To respect the dignity of every human being means that when it is easy to make someone the punchline, you choose not to.
To respect the dignity of every human being means that when it is easy to share the article condemning them on Facebook, you choose to pray for them instead.
Before my time at the Chapel, I worked in a Polymer Science Research Lab at the University of Southern Mississippi for three years during undergrad. For three years, I messed up almost daily. I contaminated solutions, I calculated incorrectly, I dropped glassware, I measured incorrectly. Anything I could possibly mess up, I messed up. I could easily have been made the punchline of a joke around the lab or been ridiculed and scolded with each shortcoming, but I wasn’t. My mentor, Keith, showed me respect. He helped me reflect on my mistakes, learn from them, and become better. If I had been shown the type of respect I am so used to dealing out as a flawed human, I would have quit long ago. The way I was treated changed how I treat those whose mistakes affect me.
When we journey from the church into the street, we must remember that our Baptismal Covenant does not only apply to the usual people sitting in our pew.
I will, with God’s help.