A couple of years ago my daughter Anne encouraged me to become a Hospice Volunteer. Although I’m taking a break from that, I had many wonderful experiences and I learned quite a bit. I was very impressed by how Hospice constantly worked to give their clients the best of care … putting together a team of physicians, nurses, volunteers for each person…reviewing their cases on a regular basis. Each person was treated with dignity… “worthy of honor and respect.”
There’s a lot of debate, discussion and disagreement today about treating each other with respect regardless of race, religion, culture, etc. It gets even more complicated as you try to resolve historical issues with present challenges. In truth, no matter the circumstances, we need to always treat one another with dignity.
We have many diverse relationships in our lives. Some situations involve obedience, eg. a parent with his children, a supervisor with a subordinate, an officer in the military with an enlisted man… in all these situation, obedience to legitimate commands is expected, … it’s right for the subordinate to obey the directives of his supervisor…he’s getting paid to do his job. Nevertheless, it’s also right for that person to be treated with respect. When we fail in these situations, we need to change and make it right. There have been times when I needed to repent and ask forgiveness of my children when I didn’t treat them right.
Over the many years there have been situations where treating others with dignity was next to impossible. In the book “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, we learn of life in the Nazi Death Camps during WWII. Frankl describes the horrifying tortures and murders of the Jewish prisoners… life had almost no value. In the midst of this, he described the occasional German guard who would try to make life better for the prisoners. He might provide extra food, overlook infractions, hand out a lighter assignment, perhaps speak a kind word. In essence he would try to treat the prisoners with some element of dignity, even though they were in the midst of a horrible hell and the guard was not in a position to set them free. Even in Auschwitz, some dignity was shown.
As Christians, we are always required to treat others with dignity, regardless of the circumstances. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, a slave that had departed from his master Philemon, was returning wherein Paul asked Philemon to receive him as a “brother beloved.” (Philemon 1:9-17) Their most fundamental relationship was as brothers in Christ.
May we always treat others as “brothers and sisters” in the Lord, with dignity…. the way we want to be treated and the way all will be treated in heaven. And I’m happy to note that in our church and community and family, over many years.. we have worked very hard to do just that. And that is good news.