Posts Tagged ‘dignity’

Affirming the Dignity in Others

June 13, 2013

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – Three and a half years ago, when I first started to intern with Polis, a 180-degree paradigm shift transformed my culture of service toward people in need. At this time, I was privileged to lead a Bible study at a ministry for people on the streets.

One of the principles we try and teach through Polis is that everyone has something to give. Everyone has a talent to offer. I began to experience this for the first time, and to live it out with people in distress. It was mind blowing, to say the least, that this is not only about what I have to offer, but about what everyone has to give me People who serve typically think in only one realm: to be a hero who rescues people.

At that point, Polis was in the midst of redesigning its website. We wanted a picture to capture what we’re about. So, that week at the homeless ministry, I made an announcement before I began the Bible study. I asked: Are there any artists who would be willing to draw a picture?

Two hands immediately flew into the air. After the study, we went into a separate room, and I told them what we needed at Polis. They fetched paper and pens and immediately started to draw a picture. The woman started to cry. She was overcome with joy, realizing that she had a God-given talent to help someone else. She drew a brilliant picture.

Our other friend was working diligently by himself in the corner. He didn’t talk much but when he was done he had drawn this . . .

Homeless picture

Amazing.

What I love is the detail in the fingers. You could tell the man took pride in his work. After he was done, he thanked me for the opportunity to share his gift.

Living in a low-income neighborhood, having the privilege to interact with people experiencing poverty, now is a joy. One of the greatest joys is to affirm the dignity of people by inviting them to serve me with the gifts and talents that God has given them.

Our homeless friends on the corner have helped me move. One 70-year-old retiree, living with his granddaughter, has helped me paint our new house. One of our friends from church helps me when go out Friday mornings to visit people in our community. He and I pray with them.

I am finding a common denominator when people in distress are invited to help: They thank you. And then they thank you. And then they thank you again. They thank you for allowing them to give back. In reality, they thank you for affirming their dignity before God.

We all desire to be needed. We just don’t realize that people in need want to be needed.

Too often, we assume that because they are poor or homeless, such people need our help. People who desire to help in our neighborhood are surprised when they meet our friends who are so talented and gifted. They expected to encounter people who need their help

We all need each other to bring God’s kingdom here on Earth. Lord, give fresh sight and determination to make this reality, no matter where we live.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain and his family in Atlanta.

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer for Polis Institute. He and his wife Adrienne and their family live in South Atlanta. He can be reached at dan@polisinstitute.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.

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Looked over

October 30, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – There are many people in our culture who do not have the same opportunities and platforms to speak that others enjoy. Yet God has given goodness and talents to everyone.

I love it when people who often times are  “overlooked” by the world help mold and shape me as a person.

For example, some ministry leaders with whom I serve often talk about how frustrating it can be when people from outside our neighborhood visit and express such alarm when they discover goodness or rich talents among the our neighbors who live here. They are downright surprised.

I suspect people have their eyes opened because too often many of us are not willing to listen. Think about how many times people return from mission trips and say that they “received” so much more than they “gave.” Maybe the consistency of such revelations takes root because too many people are not willing to listen. They see the world only for what they can give, and not how other people can serve them with their unique talents.

One young man I am mentoring has taught me much about poverty and the realities of our neighborhood. Recently, he commented that the talents of people who live at or below the poverty level fail to be noticed. Their gifts are looked over. This is why I believe so strongly in asset-based ministry. We serve, expecting only to uncover what God is already doing in forgotten people and neglected places – and we strive to empower them.

The vision of Polis is such that, “We believe that well-being will improve only when the talents of the poor are properly engaged.” When you improve the well being of people on the margins, whole cities improve.

Unfortunately, some churches are stuck in a groove – a mind-set – that more “charity” will improve the well being of the poor. The truth is, most people who live in poverty don’t want more shoes, more clothes, more food, or to have their rent paid. They yearn for opportunities for their talents to be engaged. They need respect. As one sign says, “I don’t want your coins, I want change.” No one likes to be a charity case. Why do we expect anything different among the poor?

Do we really love our neighbors as ourselves by just giving things to them? Loving our neighbor as ourselves requires much more than charity. It involves relationships that typically get dirty very quickly.

Charity proves only to hurt, not help, the poor. Instead, we need to engage their talents. Given the freedom of transparency, many people on the fringes, the down-and-out, would tell churches: “Thanks for helping, but what if the way you helped was done in the best way possible?”

What if those who hold the power and resources and are in the position to help, served in such a way that did not look over the talents of the poor?

Dan and Adrienne Crain and their family. Since this photo, they've been blessed by the arrival of twins, Eden Violet Alliene and Isaac Levi Keith.

Dan and Adrienne Crain and their family. Since this photo, they’ve been blessed by the arrival of twins, Eden Violet Alliene and Isaac Levi Keith.

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer in South Atlanta for Polis Institute. He can be reached at dan@polisinstitute.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.

Are You a ‘Have’ or a ‘Have-Not’?

September 3, 2012

By Bill Behr

The story of Anders Breivik is very sad. The mass murderer admitted to killing innocent Norwegian men, women and teenagers in a bombing-and-shooting spree in 2011. He was recently sentenced to 21 years in prison.  What brought about this great tragedy?

He justified the 77 deaths, and more than 240 injured, as necessary to prevent “Islamization.” He insisted he is sane. He feared that Norway (and all of Europe) was losing its identity to Muslims settling in his country.

Breivik radically took matters into his own hands.

How many times throughout history have we seen people persecuted or oppressed – looked down as having less value, less worth, less dignity – just because they were “different”?

The oppressors said they had a different colored skin, a different race, a different sexual orientation or maybe just lifted under a different set of rules – and these people groups could not be tolerated.  Thus, illogical and hate-filled tragedies (some call them wars) occur again and again in the name of fear, protection and control.

It is in our nature to compare ourselves to others and decide who is better. So begins the slippery slide, as we focus solely on ourselves. (“How can I get more control of my life and become better than others who have less, look better, are popular, and achieve more recognition at work?”)  This focus becomes an obsession and way of life.  It leads us to judge and segregate other people and groups, treating them as “beneath us.” These are the  “have-nots” of our society.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that Jesus became man and, out of unconditional love, sacrificed Himself to pay for all the sin in each of our lives.  In Jesus’ time, the Jews lived under Roman oppression.  Jesus did not condone fighting the Romans. Instead, in Matthew 5:43-45, he said,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Paul wrote to the Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

I am the first one to admit that I sometimes look down on others.  I compare myself to everyone. The world tells me what is pretty and what is not, who is successful and who is not, who is poor and who is not.  The world dictates that there are “haves” and “have-nots.”

“Comparison is the enemy of contentment,” my Pastor says. If you are living an anxiety-filled life of fear, sadness or loneliness: turn your focus off yourself. Then, start sharing God’s love with those you look down on. Even better, let them give back to you. (One idea: Let them pray for you.)  You will recognize their dignity when you let them serve you. And you just might discover after that, after spending time with them, they were “haves” (like us) all along.

Thank You Lord for showing us the real beauty of every person we meet. Help give us the strength to reach out and love the people (our family, our neighbors, and the marginalized) you put on our hearts.  Praise you, Father. Amen!

Bill Behr

Bill Behr is the Associate Campus Minister of Summit @ 33rd St. and can be reached at bbehr@summitconnect.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.

Why Don’t We Love the Poor?

December 2, 2011

I was raised in the United States and have always been surrounded by love, a caring family and a Christian faith-filled community.  I had a good education.  Out of college, I found a good job.

My earliest career goal was to accumulate enough wealth so I could live a life of comfort and convenience.  As I started to achieve success, I started to selfishly see myself with more value than those who had less.

Does someone with wealth have more value than someone who was raised poor?

There are those who are born into families with more and those who are born into families with less.

The common theme in all our lives – despite how we were raised – is that we all have broken God’s heart. Better said, we have all hurt someone, and we have all been hurt by someone else.  The pain is real.  It transcends the rich and the poor – everyone has experienced sadness, anger, shame and remorse.

Part of the reason we hurt each other is the lack of understanding of the great value we each have.

In Genesis 1:26-27, we are shown that God created man and woman in His image – God’s image!  What?

God is so amazingly creative! There never has been and there will never be another you __________ (fill in your name).

How can God make billions of people in the past and billions of people in the future and still not copy me?  OK, I am starting to see that maybe I am … unique. OK, if I am this one-of-a-kind person and made in God’s image … maybe I am special.  Yes, I guess I am more valuable than I thought!  So what does that have to do with the poor?  Everything!

Yes, the truth is that you and I are very special, very unique, and have great, great value.  But what about people who are criminals – they have less value because of their crimes, right?

I mean, if I do good for others, God notices those good acts … and thus God deems me to be more valuable because I did good works. Surely I’m more valuable than a felon.  Actually, that is a big lie.

Society will teach us that the haves are more valuable than the have-nots, the good are more valuable than the bad, and the rich are more valuable than the poor.  All lies!  The Truth is that God created all men and women equal … with great amazing value … no matter how little money you have.  Your value (dignity) and my value (dignity) do not change in God’s eyes.  He still desires us to love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves.

The truth is that we all have hurt one another, because we do not see the amazing value God sees in each of us.  We tend to focus on our own needs and lose focus on the wonderful, valuable people around us.  That includes the beautiful poor.  In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers or sisters, you did for me.”

Lean in and listen well to the poor – someone with great and amazing value is in your presence!

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empower those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.

What is the definition of Spiritual Gifts and how do they compare?

November 21, 2011

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a great time to reflect on our God-given gifts. Have you ever reflected on the spiritual gifts you have?

There are approximately 18 spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament, primarily found in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.

According to www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi:

“Spiritual Gifts are tools God gives to Christians to do the work of the ministry – to fulfill the Great Commission to reach, baptize and teach and to minister to one another.  Every Christian receives at least one gift at the moment of salvation.”

God created each of us with wonderful skills, abilities and talents.  The Holy Spirit helps us focus and mature the use of our gifts for building God’s kingdom from the moment we become followers of Christ.

If you are curious, here is a list of the spiritual gifts and their scriptural references from www.eleventalents.com

Administration/Ruling –  See I Corinthians 12:28, Romans 12:8, Titus 1:4-5
Apostleship – See Ephesians 4:11, I Corinthians 12:28, Acts 1:21-22, I Corinthians 9:1
Discernment – See I Corinthians 12:10, Acts 5:3-6, 16:16-18, I John 4:1
Evangelism – See Ephesians 4:11, Acts 8:5-12, 26-40, 21:8, Matthew 28:18-20
Exhortation  – See Romans 12:8, Acts 11:23-24, 14:21-22, 15:32
Faith – See I Corinthians 12:9, Romans 5:1, 12:3, Hebrews 11
Giving – See Romans 12:8, Acts 4:32-37, Galatians 4:15, Philippians 4:10-18, II Corinthians 8:1-5
Healing – See I Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30, James 5:13-16
Helps/Serving/Ministering – See Romans 12:7, I Corinthians 12:28, Galatians 6:1-2
Interpretation of Tongues – See I Corinthians 12:10
Knowledge – See I Corinthians 12:8
Mercy – See Romans 12:8, Luke 10:30-37
Miracles – See I Corinthians 12:28
Pastor/Teaching – See Ephesians 4:11, I Peter 5:1-11
Prophecy – See Romans 12:6, I Corinthians 12:10, 14:1-5, 30-33, Ephesians 4:11, I Peter 1:20-21
Teaching – See Romans 12:7, Ephesians 4:11
Tongues –  See I Corinthians 12:10, 30, 14:4, 39, Acts 2:4, Acts 19:6
Wisdom – See I Corinthians 12:8, James 3:13-17.

How do these spiritual gifts compare with the fruit of the Spirit?

The Apostle Paul lists the nine fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 as “…. love, joy, peace, patience (long-suffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”   Fruit of the Spirit in our lives result from the personal transformation we experience each day by following Jesus.  The fruit is a revelation of the heart of God that the Holy Spirit compels us to share with the needs of our neighbor(s).  We are living unfulfilled lives if we do not experience giving and receiving this Fruit of the Spirit with each other.

If you are curious, go ahead and take at least two or more Spiritual Gift tests online and see if you find one or more repeated, God-given gifts that you confirm are special tools you use to serve others.  They are good to know when defining your calling.

Once you have discerned your calling — whatever spiritual gifts you have — training with Dignity Serves can inspire you to more properly engage the talents or gifts of others.

Never forget, however, that your first calling is to love and to be loved.  Through Christ we have a lot of Fruit to offer and to accept, using the spiritual gifts God gave us.  Christ is the ultimate example for us of love and dignity.

Try sharing your love today.