Giving Honour and Dignity


There was a stir, a rukus at a Toa Payoh Coffee Shop/food place in Singapore, not a rich area but not too poor. No rowdy teenagers here. But a group of elderly men and women, above 70 at least.

It was late, about 10.30pm. At the Coffee Shop/food place, me and my partner was sitting next to two old men, kind of untidy and haggard, worn out and tired their faces. They spoke good English which surprises me. They took out an old stale bread to eat. They probably worked at the coffee shop. I felt sorry for them.

Within a few minutes, a young man (likely Gay) known to the old uncles gave them packets of food. How lovely I thought! The conversations that followed suprises me!

The young man conveyed how good the woman who treated them the food. It was an elderly woman sitting nearby. The food was unpacked, it was fried noodles left over from the afternoon. The old man commented that it was rather plain and dry and when the young man kept on talking about the woman, he abruptly returned the food to the young man.

It was as if the young man didn't give the old man, the space and dignity. They were poor, yet wanted some sense of worth. Their lives were almost over. They were tired and worn, nearing 80.

The elderly woman, who it now seems was the chief cleaning lady at the coffee shop made a big rukus. Speaking good English, she raised her voice to all declaring how ungrateful the man was. But no one bothered. Later, the old man apologised to the woman as he left the store.

Some pertinent obervations were that

  • The poor have had to work well beyond the retirement age of 62. But they didn't seem to mind nor were demanding welfare. Perhaps, things have happened along the way and they had to spart again.

  • They were not uneducated, but spoke good English. Eighty years ago, education was not universal. They may have had a good life. All of us, can end up out and down needing God's grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.

  • We all need space, respect and dignity. They had tried their best to survive.

  • There has to be righteousness, fairness and justice. They didn't steal or demanded for food even though hungry. They reserved and maintained their dignity and integrity. 

  • Gratitude cannot be demanded. The woman sought gratitude when she gave food even though the food was cold and hardly eatable.

 When the poor, the weak, the elderly and the sick approached Jesus deep into the mountains and the desert, the first thing that Jesus addressed them was that they were "blessed" not because they poor, but in addition to being poor they also had a humble spirit. They knew they had nothing, and could do nothing.

Mat 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,     For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "

It's hard to be poor in the spirit. Even when we are so poor and hungry, many still have lots of pride. In Christ, it is no longer my goodness that counts. It is His goodness. I have nothing to boast about. 

Jesus gave them the space, respect and dignity when He said that they were blessed even though poor for they had come to Him with humility in their spirit.

As Christians, we should give people Honour and Dignity.

Governments should give people honour and dignity not only handouts. Sure Jesus gave them food and healed them of their diseases. But Jesus treated people who sought Him in their times of need with great respect, honour and dignity.

The same goes for the criminalization of gay sexual acts, and gay marriage. When the basic rights are taken from a seemingly powerless minority to appease a strong majority views, the bitterness due to the deep injustice and unfairness will spread to all areas of society.

In Singapore, the unhappiness over many issues eg CPF, is because we have not given the Gay community Honour and Dignity. They are all related eg CPF issues and Gay rights because they are linked by a sense of fairness.

Gays pay taxes too and served the army but are second class citizens and branded as criminals although not prosecuted by a benovelent Government who has their hands tied by the Christian activist. But the despair of the gay community has spread into every other issue into the very centre of Singapore political discourse.

The root cause is that the Christian Community have taken from a weak people group, the very centre of their lives. They have nothing. When people have nothing, there is nothing to loose. The Christian Right and the mega churches have put the Government into a tight corner where they have to maintain the status quo.  But when everything is taken away from the GLBT community, their voices become much louder because they have nothing to defend.   

Why do activist like Roy Ngergn speak out with such angst (and without much logic in some instances) on the CPF? because there is a deep bitter root and frankly he has nothing. Being gay already made him a criminal in Singapore. Ironically, his following, his call is not to the GLBT community. He is speaking not to the gay community, but his angst and people like him will spread far and wide into the HDB heartlands.

We need to pray for Singapore for the honorable rulers, and the Christians mega church pastors to be mindful of honour and dignity.  Without fairness, people feel cheated and support will be lost. The Authorities should not be indifferent and unfair to the GLBT community because their voices and justified grievances are echoed to all other areas in society.

People are not looking for handouts. If space, respect, dignity, fairness and justice are not given but taken away, then resentment and angst will arise because we have taken everything from people. People have self worth, and are precious, created in the image of God. Surely, we can't take that away. When we take away their mere humanity, the negative waves will come back at us when we fall many fold, eg when the church as a whole failed badly in the City Harvest trial.

So let us give God's grace, love and mercy to others, the space, dignity and honour that Jesus may be blessed and exalted in our midst.

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