How would you approach a person who was living and dwelling on the streets? A better question maybe is how do we view them? And, maybe an even better question is how would Jesus view them and approach them? What if you had lived 18-20 years of your life and just now realized you haven’t looked at people with the lens Jesus has? This particular part of our time in Brazil has made us realize this mindset.
Dignity happens when we offer people the quality and honor that Christ gives, despite any circumstances. At this point in our trip, we are able to dive deeper into the culture by partnering with a ministry called Cristolândia. Cristolândia is a ministry that exists throughout the country of Brazil; it strives to bring the message that Jesus transforms and offers new beginnings to people living on the streets of Brazil struggling with substance abuse. They don’t just meet them once, hand them a bible, pray, and leave, rather they, in some ways, offer them a new life and the ability to start over. We saw people come to realize the value of their life and begin to choose steps towards newness. To see them begin to transform into more confident individuals was awe-inspiring. By the simple thing of proclaiming the value that already exists in these individuals, change was able to begin. Even in just small ways, from a haircut, a shower, a meal, new clothing, these people were seen and offered dignity. By giving these people a new outer image, this ministry is working to help them realize their own inner worth and begin their journey to new health and flourishing.
It wasn’t difficult to compare the people in the city of Brasília with the people living on the streets of our own cities back home, and really just to imagine people in general. There are people back home who are not being shown the love of Christ in the same way modeled in Brazil – no matter their circumstances. There are numerous environments, both not being offered dignity and not offering the shalom of dignity to others. Working with Cristolândia reminded us that these people are God’s children and no one person is better than any other. Differences and circumstances do not strip or strengthen our value or rightful dignity offered in Christ. We are called dignified and worthy simply because we are Image Bearers. This being said, we are called to treat and view everyone as they are – Image Bearers.
We have the honor of showing value to those around us by spending our time investing in their story and interests. How did we get to the point where we won’t look people in the eyes because we are afraid of them or “don’t have time for them”? Are we more dignified than these people? What if God did this to us?
Daily, we should show everyone dignity because we are all made in the image of God – Imago Dei. Our team has been encouraged to love each other better and look into each other’s goodness and shalom. Next time you pass a person homeless in your town, someone struggling, someone who looks different than you, remember that they are valuable and worthy, just like you, called worthy at creation through the power of the God of the universe.