We are created by God in HIs image and likeness; a reflection of God’s qualities, attributes, and characteristics.”
Pastor Fred Choi
We believe God created Heaven and Earth, man and woman in sinless perfection with dignity of life, in His image.
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Dignity can be a bit of a complex issue. It may seem like a fairly simple and straightforward issue at first, but as you dig a little deeper, the challenges begin to surface. Some of the big questions to ask are – What is dignity? Who has dignity? When and how does someone have dignity?
So to answer the primary question—what is dignity—a quick Google search yields almost one entire page of various websites attempting to define dignity, but a word-origin search tells us that it is from the Latin word “dignities” (worthiness) which is derived from the Latin word “dignus” (worthy).1 Merriam-Webster defines dignity as the quality of being worthy of honor or respect.2
So by definition, dignity is described as having the quality of being worthy of honor or respect. By using the word “quality,” the definition is simply describing or observing a characteristic or feature that someone has, rather than an action that is done by a person or thing.3
Here’s the first difficulty. Although it seems like the very definition of dignity is objective—not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased:4—that is not the case. While describing someone or something as having a quality, like, the ball is green, you are describing a quality, but when you say that someone has the quality of being worthy of honor or respect, you no longer make it an objective observation, but rather a subjective observation left to the observer to decide, because what defines honor and respect, let alone being worthy of something, is anything but objective.
Here’s another challenge to consider. When exactly does someone begin to have dignity, and when, if possible, does someone lose it? So when does it start and when does it end? The difficulty is particularly evident in the debate of determining the “worthiness” and associated dignity in the bookend stages of life – birth and death.
On one end, in the earliest stages of life, it’s clear to see by the ongoing and raging argument over when life begins that there is no one commonly held understanding as to when life begins let alone determining where the point of possession of value, honor, and respect begins.
In similar fashion, when you look at the late or final stages of life, there is definitely no commonly held belief as to when life fails to be worthy, or possessing, of dignity. Some would argue that, for someone to die with dignity, they should be allowed to determine when the end of their life occurs – when the elements which most tightly define who they are and what gives them value cease to exist.
In a highly publicized case in 2014, faced with terminal brain cancer, 29 year old Brittany Maynard chose to end her own life through medically assisted methods, citing her inability to maintain a certain quality of life as well as not wanting to put her family through a drawn out death.5
In a more recent case, Vincent Lambert, a tetraplegic former nurse, has been at the center of several highly publicized legal battles. According to an article, “his doctors, wife, and six of his eight siblings, say that the real Vincent Lambert died seven years ago in a road accident. They insist that he is unaware of his fame and, strictly speaking, unaware of anything. He should be allowed to die in dignity.”6
In yet another case, a woman named Gill Pharoah, 75, who was seemingly healthy with no medical conditions, decided to travel to Switzerland and end her life. As her partner is quoted, she (Gill) “disliked the ‘indignity’ of ageing.”7
While in no way would I marginalize or even attempt to understand the painful decision that each person faced in these three cases, it is pretty clear that the definition of what constituted dignity was either personally determined or contested in each case.
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
It’s pretty easy to see the difficulty that arises from allowing people and culture to define dignity and what is worthy of honor and respect. By allowing people to define the worthiness of someone, you make the issue completely subjective and left for each individual to decide. Most people have, and will continue to have, differing opinions of what constitutes being worthy of honor and respect.
As Christians we have another way to define what is being worthy of honor and respect.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
The Bible offers us a different and far less subjective way to determine a person’s dignity.
At Riverview we believe that we are created by God in His image and likeness. We are the “Imago Dei,” or the image of God, a reflection of God’s qualities, attributes, and characteristics. Just as God is worthy of honor and respect, we, as His image bearers share in that right – not because of something we have done, but simply because we reflect Him. It is not something we earn or something that can be removed from us due to age or action. It simply, is.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
While we all may inherently reflect the image of God, there remains a problem. Through sin, we fail to reflect a perfect image of God. It’s a problem because although we may be created in the image and likeness of God and bear resemblance to Him, our sin prevents us from being reconciled and in right standing with Him. He is holy and perfect in every way, and to be in His presence we are required to be holy and blameless without sin.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
The good news is that through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus there is a way to be justified in the eyes of God. God came to us in the form of a man, Jesus, lived a sinless life, died an unjust death on the cross, and rose from the dead three days later. Through that act, He exchanged the right standing He deserved with God for our sin and unrighteousness, and because of that, we are now hidden in Christ. When God looks at us, He not only sees the reflection of the image He created, He also sees the spotless and sinless life of Christ as our own.
As Christians, we can rest in the fact that there is a definite and objective answer as to what characteristics and qualities define our dignity, value, and worth. It was defined by God and redeemed by Christ.
Awhile ago it was explained to me in this way. We were created as mirrors that reflect the perfect image of God. When sin entered the world the mirrors were shattered. Although there are pieces that remain, the image is so distorted that it’s hard to make out the image that’s being reflected. We can’t put all the pieces back together and be in right standing with God. As a Christian, the good news is that Jesus, through His death, burial, and resurrection, picks up all of the pieces, and stands in our place as the perfect and true reflection of God – without any spot or distortion.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I find great solace in knowing that my dignity is not found in the things that I do or don’t do, the things that I say or don’t say, but in the immutable fact that I have been created by God, in the image and likeness of God, to the glory of God.
6 www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vincent-lambert-case-france-gripped-by-right-to-die-case-of-tetraplegic-former-nurse-and-an-attempt-to-kidnap-him-from-his-hospital- bed-10419934.html