Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 2 Sam 6:14&15
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. John 19:23
On Sunday evening I heard a young man preach his first sermon. It was on the prodigal son. There was much to commend but one phrase leapt at me. When the father ran towards his returning son the young preacher stated that “he sacrificed his dignity.” It was one of those phrases that invites immediate reflection and meditation. The further I thought about it the greater the realisation that more God has dealt with a rebellious and sinful humanity the more our heavenly father sacrificed his dignity – set apart the honour and glory that is His due and came into our chaos to free us from our self inflicted mess.
What we see a glimpse of in David, and the dad of the prodigal son, we see perfectly in Christ. The son, whose rightful place was and is beside the father, came to earth as a human being and died at our hands so that our condemnation would dealt with. That is sacrificing dignity – sacrificing all that is rightfully his for the our sake.
But, I thought, do I really comprehend this sacrifice? Do we as the church understand this? I am thinking particularly of the middle class church in which appearance, reputation, success and honour are so important. If Jesus sacrificed, not just his dignity, but his life for us, how I do I/we reflect that reality in the way I/we “live” our Christian lives and “live” church?
Inspired by Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal son, the respected Catholic theologian, Henri Nouwen left his University post and began caring for, and cleaning up after, mentally ill patients. Nouwen glimpsed what my young friend alerted me to on Sunday night – to be Christlike requires us to sacrifice our dignity. To be like Jesus means to sacrifice all for the kingdom – even what people think of us!