On the Death of Dignity

For I know from my own experience, as well as from that of all troubled souls, that it is solely our own self-conceit which is at the root of all our disquietude.

Dr. Martin Luther 

There is something profoundly cathartic about giving up your dignity.

The problem is not the dignity, it is the source of your dignity. I was petrified as a child because I heard of these things called termites. What termites did was start eating away at the foundation of a house, then one day your living room floor just collapses. There was nothing more terrifying to me than standing on a foundation that could collapse at any moment.

When it comes to business, I hope your resume is spotless. I hope your GPA is solid and you get a massive scholarship. But before you ever approach God, make sure you have a clear assessment of your crumbling spiritual foundation.

Some part of us rightly fears that termites are eating away at our souls. Some part of us knows that what we depend on for our strength is actually quite weak.

And what is it that we depend on for our strength? Our dignity. As long as you maintain your dignity, a certain quality that demands honor and respect, then you assume you are untouchable. If you are a respectable person, God probably won’t strike you down.

There is nothing that destroys our delusion of dignity more completely than the gospel. The gospel says that not only are we not worthy of respect or honor, it says that we are so unworthy we are entirely helpless to get a shred of honor or respect again. Not your praying, your singing, your church-attending. Not your good deeds (or your bad deeds), not your kind words (or your mean words). Not your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness or self-control. It won’t save you. Our dignity is so profoundly absent, that there is no dignified way of retrieving it ourselves.

So what then? Accept the profound indignity of God’s unconditional love for you. It is not dignified to come crawling to a savior and give him all of your sin, then walk away scratch-free covered in his sufficient righteousness, unmerited favor, and everlasting acceptance. But here is your freedom.

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  1. Another great post. I think we don’t realize how much we self-justify in these ways. I remember times when I would heinously return to certain habitual sin, and then I would say, “I can’t be all bad. I have the dignity of being a musician – I can play Bach fugues!” So, Bach fugues became my justification, my salvation. Bach fugues are wonderful, but they are not propitiatory.

    I think also that you’ve hit on one of the reasons that people balk at grace. They don’t see it as liberating to lay down their works. They think their whole dignity is wrapped up in their works. But there is no dignity in dying, and in coming to Christ, I die. I don’t try to die, I am not “called” to die. My dignity is gone, and once the false dignity you cling to has been stripped away, you can live through anything and go anywhere, because the worst has already happened. It’s like Jeff Bridges in the movie Fearless. He had already faced death, his worst fears had been realized, and he realized not only that they weren’t as bad as he thought, they were an attraction. Under grace, we can be quite reckless with our dignity, and walk flagrantly in the light and show our failures. We know there is still love after our failure is found and advertised. The world thus has no more hooks in us!

    Great post. I love you man!

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