The Worth of a Person
I remember a fridge magnet in my mother’s kitchen that read: “God doesn’t make junk”. While that idea has always gelled with me, it was quite a long time before I learned to let go of the idea that my worth depended in any way or sense on myself. After all it goes against common sense doesn’t it? A whole lot of voices tell you and I that we are a good person or a bad person based on what we do. If we work hard, are kind to other people, meet others’ expectations of us, pat dogs and live morally upright lives, then we are good. If we don’t follow ‘the rules’ or meet others’ expectations we can easily find ourselves judged as ‘bad’ or not good enough in some way or another.
That is pretty much the everyday way in which you and I are judged by others. It is also pretty much the way the Christian message is interpreted in an everyday way too. How interesting then that the Christian message, properly understood, says something radically different.
The Bible tells us time and time again that we are valuable to God in spite of what we choose to do. To paraphrase Luke Chapter 19, verse 10: Jesus came to save the lost and the sick. He certainly did not come to save the morally upright or the beautiful and perfect ones among us (not sure there are too many of us in that category anyway).
The healthy do not need saving. There are countless parables in the Bible where this same theme is repeated. It’s pretty hard to miss it, and yet many of us do. We go on being seduced by powerful counter messages in society that tell us time and again that we don’t measure up; that we are not good enough; that we are not as good as this person or that person because of this or that reason. We are not clever enough, strong enough, pretty enough (I seem to recall Kasey Chambers singing this), funny enough . . . .
What sad, pathetic rubbish! And time and again we let ourselves believe it!
The Lutheran Church teaches, and I suppose every Christian would agree, that we are all worth a great deal because we have been created by God. No more, no less. This is our intrinsic value. It does not come from how socially adept we are, how successful we are, how athletic we are, how fashion conscious we are – not that there is anything wrong with such things. It is just that they do not increase or decrease our value as human beings. We are valuable in ourselves because of whose we are, not what we do. We are God’s creatures, every last one of us. God has made us the way we are with all our disappointments and imperfections.
Once we begin to appreciate this simple yet profound message we no longer need to derive our personal worth from how others judge us or what they say about us. We begin to understand that our friends and neighbours, even the ones we don’t like, are also God’s creatures and through that they are people worthy of our respect.
That understanding is the basis for how we respond to bullying at Peace. Quite simply, a bully does not appreciate the worth of themselves or of other people. Bullying is the denial of what God has done in and for us.
We understand that we will always have people in our midst who treat others as if they are of no value, but we will never accept that state of affairs. Nor will we ignore it. We name bullying for what it is: An abomination. At Peace, we emphasise the importance of treating others with respect, even those whom we do not instinctively like, because they are God’s creatures just as we are. Ultimately, individuals who can not or choose not to do this have no place in our community.
People who feel good about themselves and who appreciate their own worth do not need to bully others.