(With our January 7 trip to India nearly here, I thought I’d run some blogs about one of the most basic theological differences between Indian culture and ours. I have found this VERY helpful in knowing how to better communicate the Gospel to those from different cultural backgrounds.)
As American evangelical Christians today we clearly understand the truth behind the guilt-innocence paradigm. We have been taught we are guilty before God and He has paid the penalty for us so we can be free (innocent). That is very true and clearly understood.
We are also fairly well versed in the fear-power perspective as well. We are taught about Jesus’ miracles and God’s power. We know and experience freedom for Satan and his demons. We are steeped in the awareness of God’s awesome greatness. We know there is no power greater than Him.
Where we fall short is our understanding of the shame-honor view. We know our sins are forgiven and we no longer have guilt before God, but we go through life with tremendous shame, not realizing Jesus removed our shame on the cross as well. Let’s look at the gospel from a shame-based perspective and see how that applies to us today as well.
We all stand in shame and dishonor before God. We have no worth of our own to earn His approval. We have been sent from His presence, as Adam and Eve were sent out of Eden. They couldn’t return and neither can we. We stand naked and disgraced before Him (Job 1:21). We are poor and penniless beggars with no hope and no future.
Perhaps teens can understand this better for they are more affected by a shame-based culture. Suppose a teen was totally rejected by family and friends. They were mocked and hated, kicked out of their home and group with nothing – no food, no clothing, no shelter, nothing. They have no worth and no hope. A large sign is put around their neck which reads ‘uncool’ (or ‘nerd’ or something similar). In total embarrassment they have to sit naked in the mall begging for coins for food. They find scraps of paper on the floor and try to use them to cover themselves and hide their nakedness. How would such a teen feel? That is how we are before God and that is how we should feel in approaching Him on our own.
There is nothing we can do to change our standing before God, absolutely nothing. Only God Himself could remove our disgrace. Only He could clothe Adam and Eve in Eden, and He did so, making garments of skin for them to wear (Genesis 3:21). That is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He hung there, totally naked, for 6 long hours. He was completely rejected by God and man. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!” He cried (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Feeling the guilt of our shame in His sinless soul was beyond any shame we will ever feel. The rejection was beyond anything we will ever know, and it was all done for us.
By sharing and removing our shame He has given us honor. His worth for doing such a thing was passed on to us. That wonderful act was eternally honorable for Him and that is the honor He passes on to us. He removes our shame and rejection. He makes us part of His family and we are accepted by Him in heaven for all eternity. Isaiah writes: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Let’s go back to our teenage sitting naked and embarrassed in the mall, covered with pieces of litter and begging for scraps of food. As he sits there he notices the multi-millionaire owner of the mall walking down the hall. The owner spots him and changes direction, walking directly toward the teen. The teen pulls his scraps tighter around him but can’t avoid the stare of the owner. He stops before the teen, and then does what seems unbelievable. He takes off his fine, tailor-made clothes and puts them on the teen. He takes the teens place, covers himself with the pieces of litter and becomes the beggar the teen was. He gives the teen the keys to his office with its fine furniture and state-of-the-art entertainment center. He hands you papers stating you are adopted into his family and that everything he owns is equally yours. His family is waiting to accept you into an honored position and shower you with presents and love. Imagine how the teen would feel now! Imagine how he’d feel toward the owner who did all this.
That is the best way I can describe what God did for us from a shame-honor perspective. Like the father of the prodigal son, He clothes us with His best and puts us in a privileged, highly esteemed position (Luke 15:22). Best of all, there is nothing that can happen to have this honored position taken away (Romans 8:1). We need never living in shame or rejection again! We have respect and honor for all eternity! We have gone from being pitiful, naked beggars to honored and esteemed members of God’s family for all eternity! We will rule and reign with Jesus forever (Revelation 20:6). Our shame has been replaced with honor.
There is no need for any child of God to live any longer in shame. Too often we are defeated by lies about our past, memories of things which God Himself has forgotten (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17; Jeremiah 31:34). There is no reason to live in shame. It has been totally removed forever. There is no shame for the child of God (Romans 8:1). The wonderful grace of Jesus is greater far than all my sin and shame!
So our guilt has been turned to innocence because Jesus paid our debt on the cross. Our shame has been turned to honor because Jesus took our shame and rejection and gave us His honor position with Him forever. Our fear has been removed because His power for us and available to us assures us that there is nothing more for us to ever fear. It’s all taken care of – God covered all 3 world paradigms on the cross! He’s got it all covered!
He has replaced our guilt with innocence. “The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy” (Zephaniah 3:15a). He has exchanged our fear with power. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm” (Zechariah 3:15b). He has traded our shame for honor. “’I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 3:19-20).
What a wonderful, marvelous, all-providing God we serve! We can only scratch the surface of His love and greatness. No wonder we will spend all eternity in heaven worshipping Him, for then we will see His glory in its full magnificence. Worthy is the Lamb! He bore all my sin and shame, ALL of it. Worthy IS the Lamb!
Dan 6:21-22 Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.”
What are some of the wrong ways those who aren’t believers handle their guilt and shame?
When are you most apt to be tempted to fear or worry?
What do you usually do when hit with fear or worry?
What is the way God wants us to handle them?