From shame to honor

April 23, 2013

As Americans, it is not always easy to understand or accept the concept of shame and honor especially when we encounter it in the way of honor killings. It's so different than our law system, where we find people guilty or innocent. Thus, it is difficult without a lot of study and immersion in a Middle Eastern culture to share the Gospel with people from that society. In fact, even in the Hindu culture, people are not raised from being garbage collectors to be seated on the righthand side of a throne. But that is what the Bible says will happen to those who believe that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected on our behalf. God takes us from the shame of sin and raises us to be joint heirs with Christ.

Our western culture has lost most of our understanding of shame and honor but the Bible is filled with it. The Bible begins with man's fall into shame and ends with his being anointed with glory and honor at God's right hand. The Bible tells us to honor God, our parents, Christian and government leaders, etc. Leviticus 26:13 states, "I am The Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high." This is the overall message of the Bible. Only God can elevate people from a position of shame to that of honor. And that is His desire.

Just one topic that I would like to focus on here is that of cleansing. We see the Muslims washing before going to prayer. In fact, they must wash before even picking up the Qur'an to read. By washing, he has removed the contamination that would disqualify him from reading and hearing from God. In such a shame-based culture, a Christian can make the connection between defilement and cleansing and grace of God as revealed in the Bible. Aaron and his sons were to wash whenever they entered the tent of meeting or went to the altar. Their actions portrayed a picture of what was to come in Christ, who provided cleaning through the washing of blood. In the Gospels, Jesus turned to lepers to heal them, demonstrating Gods' desire to reach out to those in place of shame, and restore them. They had been declared unclean before.

Cleansing is fundamental to understanding grace. Mankind is unclean. The Jewish woman who bled for 12 years and was thus unclean was unable to enter the temple. These are kinds of verses that speak loud and clear to those living in shame-based cultures, and in need of a Cleanser, a Savior and a Redeemer.

There are others. As you read the Bible, look for the different types of culture in the stories. You might be surprised to see many more shame/honor type references than "guilt" ones. Yes, the story of God redeeming His people is a "legal" thought, but it is also the story of God raising mankind from a position of shame, to the ultimate position of joint-heir with Christ. Praise The Lord!

Cathleen (currently in Kas)