Death isn’t a subject most people are eager to discuss, but death by one’s own hand fits the template of today’s “pro-choice” culture. Several states have adopted measures whereby terminally-ill individuals have the “right” to lawfully end their lives. One website says “death with dignity” offers “options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care.”
I’ve asked myself whether “dying with dignity” is even possible. If one means to control the way one dies or the setting in which it happens or seeks to promote the conceit that embracing death somehow makes it more palatable, these nuanced “dignity” claims are laughable!
We first need a definition of dignity. In my view, indignity is easier to define, but I’m not persuaded it’s the inverse of dignity. Attempting to avoid or bypass life’s indignities (by self-administering a lethal dose of drugs) suggests cowardice, inconsistent with dignity.
Death is indignity! It is the ultimate and final insult humanity delivers, a constant reminder of life’s temporality. No fountain of youth provides an antidote. Whatever our age or station, none of us is immune.
When I think of dignity, the modifier “quiet” attaches itself. I think of the quiet dignity displayed by Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie whose work (to shield Jews from Nazi persecution) brought about their own imprisonment in the Ravensbrück death camp. Corrie’s and Betsie’s quiet dignity enabled them to thank God, to thank Him even for fleas!
It seems to me quiet dignity isn’t something we seize upon when the pressure mounts. Quiet dignity has already carved an individual’s demeanor and dire circumstances simply reveal the core of one’s humanity.
Consider for a moment the One Person in History who actually controlled the time, setting and means of both His life and death. Yes … consider Jesus. Think about Him. Son of God, the One who created time and then stepped into it, made Himself a captive to its tyranny. The God-Man submitted Himself to the human condition with all its myriad indignities.
This weekend we commemorate the excruciating end of life (Jesus’ crucifixion) and the victorious Good News that surpasses all other good news (Jesus’ resurrection).
Picture in your mind Jesus being scourged by a leather whip embedded with sharp bone or metal fragments and designed to inflict maximum punishment. With each stroke, the scourge tears viciously into His flesh, stripping away patches of skin, effecting fresh wounds while deepening others.
Picture this Jesus, weakened in body but resolute in soul, being stripped naked. As the marks from His beating become more visible, swelling bloats His countenance, blood pools under His skin. His face becomes unrecognizable! (Isaiah 52:14b tells us: His appearance was marred more than any man.)
Picture this Jesus with Roman soldiers preparing His execution. His hands − used to heal and serve others − are held down for spikes to be driven through. A crown of thorns pierces His face and head; hours later, a spear pierces His side.
Despite Pilate’s reiterations “I find no guilt in Him” (John 18:38b and 19:4), the curse of the Cross was delivered against the innocent Man. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth … a lamb led to slaughter. (Isaiah 53:7)
The brutal, bloody crucifixion of the God-Man, Christ Jesus, demonstrated His humanity. His willingness to suffer monstrous indignities on my behalf manifest the quiet dignity that can only be described as divine. And then − think of it! The Resurrection!