Ruth Bader Ginsburg
March 16, 1933 - September 18, 2020
Philippians 2:1-13 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Reflection Wednesday morning while staring at my computer screen, hot tears carving a watercourse across my chin, witnessing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s flag swaddled coffin preside from the top of the Supreme Court steps, the question that rattled my mind is this.
“What makes a person great?”
Even in her death the greatness of Justice Ginsburg crushes cinderblock with lace. On Friday we witnessed best another quantum leap, Justice Ginsburg, the first woman to lie in state in the United States Capitol. As Paola Fuentes Gleghorn writes in an online Sojourner’s article (September 24, 2020), “…many of the things I take for granted began with (Justice Ginsburg’s) work. As a woman, I can have a credit card in my name, open a bank account, and buy a house through a mortgage without a husband's signature. I can also inherit land, and I am protected from being fired if I become pregnant, none of which was possible for every woman in the United States before the 1970s.” Almost all of these rights can point to the 1971 case in which Ginsburg argued and convinced the “Supreme Court that the 14th Amendment made discrimination on the basis of sex unconstitutional.”
Please consider this. Although the title justice is a noun referring to a person who presides over a court, I would argue that in Ginsburg’s case it is also a verb. For English majors, a transitive verb, one that is directly attached to a noun. I believe great people are people whose deepest truest values inform their actions and transform lives, their integral value is their title and their tithe. Justice Ginsburg embodies justice, just actions born on the back of her battles for dignity and opportunity for all people.
Great people live great values, values that rattle like beans inside a dried gourd, values that play the person from the inside out.
We are all meant to live great values, values that inform us from the inside out. Which of course means, we are all meant to be great people. Clearly, not every great person has the status and stature of Justice Ginsburg. Still, there is no getting around it. We are all meant to be great people, living great values that rattle us, shake us up and move us from the inside out.
Here is the thing. Lives lived from the inside out, informed by values that rattle our core, mean we are sure to face adversity. Justice Ginsburg was no stranger to adversity. Her mother died of cancer one day before her high school graduation. As a young wife and mother her husband Martin was drafted for two years. Shortly after he returned and they were both enrolled in law school, Martin was diagnosed with testicular cancer. What did Ginsburg do? She attended both his and her classes, kept up her husbands work and ranked at the top of her Harvard class while law school officials derided her for taking a man’s place. Justice Ginsburg’s battle for dignity and opportunity for all people was both personal and transpersonal. It reached from the inside and rattled the outside because great people live great values that move them from the inside out.
Here is what Justice Ginsburg has to say to all of us, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Acting deliberately to insure dignity and justice for all people is the way we embody our core values, values that should rattle us from the inside out, values that inspire compassion and sympathy and attract people to join us. Let us never forget, our core value driven actions do not incite anger and violence nor inflame divisiveness and destruction. They cultivate consolation, cohesiveness and compassion.
Most of us will never climb the steps of the United States Supreme Court but that does not let us off the hook. We are meant to be great people living great values. We are meant to follow in the footsteps of great people like Justice Ginsburg and Jesus, people who found their title and made their tithe by aligning their lives in the will and the work of God.
By our actions we honor the legacy of Justice Ginsburg and Jesus. What action will you take this week aimed at procuring dignity and opportunity for all people? Please share a comment to let us know.
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