The Dignity Code Of Jesus And The Reformation -- By: Bill Domeris

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 24:1 (Sep 2017)
Article: The Dignity Code Of Jesus And The Reformation
Author: Bill Domeris

The Dignity Code Of Jesus And The Reformation

Bill Domeris1


The Reformers, through their renewed and inspired reading of Scripture, rediscovered and applied, to their time, the teaching and practice of Jesus, including Jesus’s own code of dignity. Not that they declared that they recognised such a code or even gave it a name—rather it was a case of what Thomas à Kempis called ‘the imitation of Christ’ (1418-1427)—doing what Jesus did.

Following the Gospel accounts, Jesus expressed his respect for the worthiness (Gk. worth ἄξιος) of all people in both his teaching and his practice, and it informed his vision of the Reign of God. This deep awareness of what we today term ‘human dignity’ enabled Jesus to challenge the hegemonic2 code of honour and shame. which dominated the first-century Roman world, including the Jewish colonies of Judaea and Galilee. A millennium and a half later, as the Reformers filled their minds with Scripture (sola scriptura) and meditated upon the praxis of Jesus, they bore fruit which led inter alia

to the education of ordinary children (created in imago deo) and a re-evaluation of Christian forms of leadership (priesthood of all believers). But it was the inherent idea of human worthiness (dignity), which remains to this day one of the great gifts of the Reformation, and ultimately, I will argue, harks back, at least in part, to Jesus’ personal dignity code.

1. Introduction

In the Gospel of Matthew there is a wonderful parable about the Lord of the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-15). The story is deceptively simple, and one may easily overlook the great truth found here – namely, the sense of affirmation of the individual workers. The chapter begins by connecting the parable with the Kingdom of God (v. 1). Jesus describes the lord (κύριος)3 of the vineyard going out to find ‘day-labourers’ to assist with the work—presumably the harvesting of the grapes. Making his way into the marketplace early in the morning (about 6 a.m.) the landowner found a group of workers, and after negotiating terms and wages (one denarius—the usual day’s wages), he took the labourers to work in the vineyard (v. 2). At 9 a.m., he went back to the marketplace and hired more workers, but without negotiating term...

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