Honor & Shame

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  • September 23, 2009

ebook available online

Some good friends who had done ministry in the East recently recommended this book to Shainu and me. In fact, they did more than recommend it; they bought us a copy. We walked into our apartment building one day and saw this package waiting for us. What a great gift. I’d highly recommend this book.

It was a great reminder of what Jesus has accomplished for us through His Gospel. The author’s thesis is that in the West, we’ve inherited Roman culture and a Roman way of looking at the world. So we see the world in terms of right and wrong, guilt and innocence. Law is a big deal for us. As such, our understanding of the Gospel tends to focus on how Jesus has brought us from wrong to right and moved us from guilt to innocence. We love justification (and rightly so!) – the doctrine by which we have been declared righteous and imputed Christ’s righteousness. Our law-based culture even shares the Gospel this way. We have “Four Spiritual Laws” and the Romans Road all showing people how our sins/crimes are worthy of punishment and Jesus has paid for our crimes by being punished.

While the author celebrates this aspect of the Gospel, he challenges the reader to consider other movements that the Cross accomplishes. Particularly, the movement from a position of shame to a position of honor. Whereas guilt and innocence frames the way we see the world in the West, shame and honor frames the viewpoint of much of the East.

In the Garden, moments after the fall, we see our first parents overwhelmed with a sense of guilt for the wrong they had done. But we also see them hide from God in fear. And we also see them cover themselves because of their nakedness and shame. Sin produces guilt. But it also produces fear and shame. The glorious news is that the Cross has dealt with all of it. Jesus moves us from fear to power, from guilt to innocence, and from shame to honor. He clothes the naked. He cleanses the defiled. He elevates the shamed and seats them in places of honor.

The author argues that seeing this side of the Gospel is essential for ministering in the Eastern context where honor & shame  shape the culture.  This new lens is wonderfully effecting the way I view some familiar Scripture passages and bringing to new light everything Jesus has done for us through His Cross.

Anyway, the book has done what a good book will do. It has me thinking about its message long after I put it down. So I recommend it to you – particularly if you’re someone with an Eastern mindset or ministering to such.

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road.

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