READ: Psalm 97, Amos 9, John 1, Galatians 3
Undignified for Jesus. We tend to despise those who cannot control themselves–even in worship. When God encounters a person, the “dirt and divinity” principle kicks in–a dissonance arising from the distance between the all-powerfully Holy and the limited sinful. If mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord (Psalm 97:5), what makes us think we can emotionally hold it together when God reveals Himself? Yet modern man prizes little as highly as public composure. God is not a real big fan of pride (whatever its disguise), and we can be proud of our restraint. It takes an uncommon lowliness to respond to God emotionally. David was beloved of God for many things, unrestrained and emotional response in worship being one of them.
Undignified for the Gospel. Bearing witness of Jesus requires us to forfeit dignity, to be willing to lose face so that others might hear and understand who Jesus is. Jesus became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13), and we need to be willing to become despised for the sake of others. If Jesus was willing to hang naked on a cross, a spectacle across time, we should be willing to have all our vulnerabilities, sins, and limitations exposed. Our tolerance for indignity is shockingly low. We love to help from a position of strength, a position of the superior, dignified benefactor. We are less willing to help from a position of weakness and shame.
Undignified for Ourselves. John the Baptist’s confession of who he was not [I am not the Christ, I am not Elijah, I am not the Prophet (John 1:20)] was just as important as his confession of who he was [I am a voice crying (v. 23)]. Both confessions were lowly. It is not until we become comfortable with and thankful for our limitations that we are empowered to be used in our strengths. Our longing for significance so easily leads us to present ourselves as stronger than we really are. We covet the respect of our peers, we fear we will be rejected or discarded if they knew all our indignities. This pretense becomes a burden over time, a constant pressure to be thought well of, to be considered in control of life, emotion, and context. It is excruciating when our veneer of capacity is stripped away from us by sin or circumstance and our true self is revealed with all its limitations. It is also liberating.
We need to be undignified for our own sake, for it frees us. When we have nothing to hide from others, we are invulnerable to the prison of others’ expectations. Walking in the light requires a life without secrets, a life entered into by embracing indignity for the freedom on the other side of our shame.