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A commitment to universal dignity

We can all play a role in upholding a sense of worth and value that’s inherent in each and every one of God’s children.

One day shortly after my dad passed on, my mom was walking out of her condo to her car. Just then a garbage truck pulled into the parking lot. The driver got out and called to her, “Mrs. Booth – I want to tell you how sorry I was to hear about your husband’s passing. I truly loved that man. He always stopped to talk with me, to ask after my family and how the job was going. He always made me feel better about things.”

It was a sweet interchange, and it turns out it wasn’t one of a kind! Dad just loved people and naturally made them feel worthy of honor and respect. As a Christian Science practitioner in the business of helping others find healing through prayer, Dad made it his life’s work to see everyone – no matter what race, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation – as God’s beautiful, brilliant, glorious, precious child. The natural result of this was that folks felt uplifted and healed even when he wasn’t specifically praying for them.

Dad’s model for living this way was Christ Jesus. Jesus was by race probably of Middle Eastern descent, by gender male, by religious affiliation Jewish, and by socioeconomic status a blue-collar worker who during his healing ministry was technically unemployed and homeless by today’s standards. But what truly defined him was the love he expressed. It was so palpable that people were drawn to him in droves. This was spiritual love, evidencing God’s love – perceiving that worth and status are not defined by what is seen on the surface but by what we actually are as the spiritual offspring of God, always loved, valued, and worthy.

The Bible includes accounts of multitudes being healed. To me it seems these healings came about because the people felt a more spiritual sense of their wholeness and worth radiating from Jesus; they felt bathed in the love with which Jesus beheld all. Perhaps the most tender accounts are the ones in which Jesus healed those thought to be untouchable – for instance, a leper who was considered contagious (see Matthew 8:2, 3) and a woman with a chronic hemorrhage who was considered unclean (see Matthew 9:20-22). Think of how, through his tender care, the years of indignity and disdain these individuals had suffered melted away.

It was through her deep study of the Bible, especially the life of Christ Jesus, that Mary Baker Eddy discovered Christian Science in the 19th century. Instead of accepting the prevalent view of man (everyone, male and female) as fallen, she came to this conclusion from studying Jesus’ teachings and healings: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 476-477). It also healed the oppressed, the downtrodden, the outcast, and so forth.

The commitment to behold all humanity in this way, seeing others as God sees His creation, is a commitment to upholding universal dignity. And this is a commitment we can all make. It’s not always easy, however, when a common premise is “survival of the fittest,” implying that our job is not to help others but to be better than they are and get more than they have and to serve our own clan first. Or when there’s a fear that there simply isn’t sufficient time, supply, or love to invest thought in seeing everyone as God does.

But when we really yearn to see through the singular yet wide lens of God’s love, we begin to experience what Christ Jesus described when he said, “If … thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). From the focal point of divine Love, everyone is worthy of respect and honor. Letting this inform the way we think about and treat others, instead of being focused on gaining a personal share of goodness, manifests God’s infinite goodness, sufficient for all, including ourselves. Upholding universal dignity in this way lifts us, like a rising tide lifts all boats, and we find our own and others’ worth and value equally enhanced by seeing that God’s whole creation is forever glorious!

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