Human Dignity: Mission to the poor

                    Human Dignity: Mission to the poor

In the year, when I was about to finish my B.D (M.Div. in US) studies in a prominent seminary back home in India, the tragedy hit me and my family, the unexpected death of my elder brother who was working around 1200 miles away from our home. It took more than 27 hours of driving to bring his dead body back home. It was the most humiliating experience for me and my family. We had our movement of humiliation because we were as a family not ready to conduct the home going service and the visitation of many friends. It was the time when we had our house that was not livable, unfinished walls and all around our house filled with collection of raw materials. I was humiliated because I was pretending and covering up my situation. I always had materially rich people as my friends even while I was doing my schooling. Everyone in our surrounding villages came to know our situation that were poor. Around five thousand peoples visited our home during those days, our neighbors, relatives, seminary friends, class mates, church members and strangers. Everyone looked at us and viewed what will happen to this family. How will they face this tragedy. We were broken, humiliated and undignified. 
I thought I was close to God. My question to God during that stage of life was why did God humiliate me among my friends, family, relatives, neighbors, church members and strangers? I asked God…Do God participate in my humility and brokenness? God said to me that “you are not humiliated in-comparison to how the heaven humiliated the SON through the incarnation of Christ”.  Philippians 2:8 - Jesus left the glory of heaven, humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of the death on the cross. Consider how much humility and meekness would be required for one to willingly leave the glory of heaven to come to earth, to live as a man and die as a criminal to save others.  Only a humble person can accept persecution, mistreatment, suffering or hardship without rebelling against God and without doubting His wisdom. We need to positively accept that fact that God has chosen to allow this to happen for God’s good purposes. During this process, I have experienced the mystery of God’s grace, which taught me the overwhelming greatness of redeeming love, humility and the consummation of everlasting blessedness and adoration. This experience I can truly say broke my pride, self-will, stubbornness and sinful habits.  
Another incident I can think was an event occurred while I was working as a missionary to the unreached people in India. I was in a remote village in Tamilnadu, one of the southern states in India, reaching the village after traveling around 4 hours from the neighboring town. This was a tribal village and the people are not exposed to the rest of the world. After evangelizing the village, we were invited to eat in one of those houses. They offered food in a banana leaf. They served cooked rice using their bare hands and they served me the head of the chicken. I never eat the chicken head and I realized saying NO at that particular context will only humiliate their culture and way of life. I realized the fact that dignity is the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect. Christ showed his dignity by his love for us.
I asked my mother when I was child, why you invite him (the beggar) and share our table. Why did you give him food using our plates/utensils? I asked my mother just like a fool.  My mother responded to me that there is no difference between you and him. Every human being are equal in the sight of God. 
There is nothing more profound or more misunderstood than the dignity of the human person. What gives us dignity is not that we are human beings and not insects or animals.  It is the potential to have a relationship with God based on the purpose of our mire existence that we are created in the image and likeness of God.  God gives us dignity before he gives us forgiveness and prosperity. In the encounter with the scribes and Pharisees, in the context of the woman who got in adultery, Jesus responded with dignity "Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone." "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on no longer sin. John: 8: 11. The saddest thing in this world is not poverty but the lose of dignity. Human freedom is the open window through which shines the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity. Often we are willing to give charity to the poor and our charity is not connected with the due respect and dignity. Thus mission is emphasized in preaching of the good news to the poor and not charity but offering dignity.

God heals our brokenness through many ways. God will replace the sinful attitudes with godly attitude. My humble experience also rooted out fear and replaced faith in God. I was broken and that taught me trusting in God. God also is not someone who will leave you in your darkest hours but he will bring you to light. God will restart a new life in you. Ezekiel 36:25 says; 25"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.26"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27"I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.... God is our hope and means of restoration and healing.

Dr. Binu Peniel

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