Freedom and dignity: their true source

This post continues a review of key points in Ron Highfield's book, God, Freedom & Human Dignity: Embracing a God-Centered Identity in a Me-Centered Culture. For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 678910111213.

Used with permission from Cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ Ministries via Wikimedia Commons
So far in this series we've been looking at humanity's quest for freedom and dignity. In our world, that quest is typically guided and motivated by a me-centered identity that might, for a time, lead to the illusion of freedom and dignity, but ultimately leads to despair. That's the bad news of the human condition that dominates so much of life in our increasingly narcissistic world.

But, take heart, there is good news! Human freedom and dignity are not out of reach---they flow from a God-centered identity that has its grounding in the servant-heart of the God-man Jesus who by the Spirit is sharing with those who trust in him his own humanity with its true and lasting, God-given freedom and dignity. Ron Highfield elaborates:
In Christ we find an identity rooted not in others' changing thoughts about us, but in God's eternal knowledge of us. The Spirit leads us toward the perfect freedom of life in harmony with our truest identity. (p. 113)  
This true human identity is made available to us in Christ, through the Spirit, from the self-giving God. This truth is conveyed to us in the gospel---the biblical story of creation and redemption, which, according to Highfield, portrays our gracious God as...
...a fountain from which flow all good things in abundance. Infinite in goodness, God wills that there are creatures with whom to share his goodness.... God longs for our restoration and salvation so much that God becomes one of us and pours out God's life that we may live. (p. 115)
God, who is love (1 John 4:16), created us not because of some need in himself, but because of love and for love. His love for us is what gives us our personal significance and life's purpose. We don't have significance and purpose because of anything we do, but because of who we are (God's beloved). As Highfield writes, "We are significant because God loves us for no reason other than that God has freely chosen to love us" (p. 119).

By grace and for love, God chose to create us, then by becoming human save us---doing for us (as our representative and substitute) what the head of the human family (Adam) would not do---trust God and live only to do the Father's will. God's gift of salvation involved him giving us the best gift that he could give---himself, in the person of his Son, incarnate in Jesus. "Christ's self-sacrificial love [self-giving] represents how God really feels about us" (p. 121).

Dear reader, hear this declaration of the gospel---God is for you! His interactions with you are all designed to give you being, to save you from destruction, and to bring you to glory. There is absolutely no reason to fear placing yourself fully into his loving hands where, from him, you will receive the freedom and dignity you long for. This loving Father God, who wants nothing but your best, has supreme dignity. And what kind of dignity is that? Some define God's dignity on the basis of his divine perfections, noting his greatness and loftiness. Well, God certainly is great and lofty, but not in the ways that some think, in the sense of being separate, removed, aloof or in some way "above" us. That is not who God is and not the nature of his actual dignity---a dignity he freely shares with us, his children---the objects of his love.

Paradoxically, the true nature of God's dignity is revealed to us in the cross of Christ. It is there that we see portrayed "the power and wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). The cross represents the act of one "who was rich, yet for our sakes became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Highfield comments:
In the darkness and shame of the cross God revealed a glory and dignity far deeper than the superficial glory and dignity the world seeks [in its me-centered quest for personal freedom]. (p. 123)
How then does God's dignity, seen in the cross, become ours? The answer is this: through love. God's love, revealed in the cross, makes us worthy. We share in that God-given worthiness (dignity) as we love God and love others (because God loves them too). So our dignity is not based on power or prestige---it is not grounded in personal achievements, but on the dignity of God himself. And that brings us back to God, who has revealed himself to us in and through Jesus. Highfield comments:
The doctrine of the Trinity assures us that when, in the power of the Spirit, we look at Jesus, at his love, compassion and self-sacrifice, we are seeing into the very heart of God... God was always like Jesus, because Jesus is the exact image of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) ....The fullness of God's being...is the fullness of loving freely and being freely loved, of giving, receiving, returning and sharing. God's dignity is founded and expressed in the loving and being loved among Father, Son and Spirit. God gains worth not from exercising unlimited freedom to act arbitrarily or by making the whole world serve and cringe; God is infinitely worthy because each infinite divine person loves and is loved by the others infinitely. By loving, each gives worth to the others. (p. 124-125)
That is who God is---a triune communion of love. And it is in that self-giving love that is found God's true dignity. And being objects of this triune God's love is what gives us our true dignity. And as we share with the triune God in his loving communion, we find our true identity and true freedom and the dignity that goes with it. This is the God-centered self. In future posts we'll learn more about its nature---a journey of exploration that will always take us back to God, seeking to understand more about his love and grace. Stay tuned!

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