April 24, 2013
As I prepare to leave Asia and head to Africa, I am again considering the differences in culture. Fear based cultures are found among the Animists of the world, in Africa and South America and other areas. Missionaries have worked in these areas for many years, and seen God move, as they shared God's message of victory over the power of the enemy and release from fear through Jesus Christ. God is greater than the witch doctors and the demons that hound people's lives.
The worldview that I am most familiar with, guilt, is simply a sense of having done something wrong; that a law or rule has been broken. Fear on the other hand, usually implies being afraid of a consequence. One is afraid because of an action or inaction. Shame, on the other hand, is the feeling of embarrassment or a sense of unworthiness, as felt in a relationship between two or more people.
So I ask, how should the tactics change depending on the culture that is being addressed? It seems we have done a good job in communicating to the western world that the church offers God's forgiveness for sin. In the eastern setting, the church needs to communicate the message that God is offering hope to those in a position of shame. I think this is true for many westerners these days too. In a fear-based culture, the church must communicate the message that God offers freedom from the bondage of fear.
Yet, I believe we must not limit our message to just one facet. Our focus in the west on guilt has left some of us with only a partial understanding of the gospel. And some Christians (and nonChristians) are suffering because they are still bound by shame or fear. We who communicate the gospel message must share the full three-fold message of salvation. It is like a braided cord or rope. The three parts wrap around each other, strengthening each other.
I think the Apostle Paul was fully aware of this, when he wrote about making the message understood to the Jews, the Greeks, and the "barbarians." Even in Paul's day, the world was split into three great worlddviews. The Jews were a Semitic people who lived in a shame-based culture. The Greeks were the ones who were developing a guilt-based culture, and the barbarians were those who lived in fear-based cultures.
This has been a great experience in Turkey. It's not easy to say goodbye. I'll be traveling most of tomorrow to Ethiopia and would appreciate your prayers over the next week. I'm missing Tim and my church at home.