Much of what you heard in the sermon is greatly expanded in this new book, “Honor, Shame, and the Gospel,” in particular, the chapter that I submitted for the book entitled “Sharing God’s love in an Urban, Pluralist Context.” If you’re familiar with books and programs on missions, you’ll see that this book is either endorsed by or co-authored by top missiologists of the last few decades from Talbot, Fuller, Phoenix, and seminaries abroad.
I’ve been on many mission trips both here and abroad, have spoken at mission conferences, and today train many missionaries in the field. I’m finishing up a book for Cru on support-raising and also finishing up a training cohort for the ministry God used to lead me to Christ in college, AACF. This is not a “resume” in any sense but to give credential to this observation. Most assume that successful evangelism happens when people are evoked by a sense of guilt, as if that’s the only way the Spirit convicts.
We can no longer assume guilt as the default biblical lens
- Remove the assumption that successful evangelism must solely evoke a sense of guilt in the minds of hearers. This assumption assumes only a guilt/innocence paradigm of reading the Bible.
- Understand that the Bible can be read from guilt paradigm ALONGSIDE a shame paradigm. In a guilt paradigm, the good news is the we can be returned to a state of innocence, but this is not the whole picture, nor is this “good news” for cultures that don’t respond to guilt so readily.
- The good news? Besides justification, our shame was reversed at the cross. The lie of distorted honor systems was exposed and shame’s power to exclude was destroyed.
- This is a testimony of one of my distorted honor systems, wrapped up in the Asian-American Dream.
- “For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2
- Reflect: What are examples of distorted honor systems that you can identify from your family, culture, or church? Where are the distorted honor systems in your own life? i.e., where have you derived identity apart from the Lord?
- At the cross, Jesus exposed our distorted honor systems and destroyed shame’s power to separate and hide He has invited us to be a part of His family, where you are beloved and honored.
- In 2007, I presented a Gospel presentation to the first ever Epic Movement staff conference to illustrate what a Gospel presentation would look like written from an honor-shame perspective
- Many years later, another Cru staffer painstakingly created an honor-shame Gospel presentation available for your smartphone.
Apprehensions to an honor-shame narrative paradigm
- We don’t find many entries about shame or honor in our popular Bible dictionaries and systematics compared to guilt. “Since Western systematic theology has been almost exclusively written by theologians from cultures framed primarily by the values of guilt and innocence, there has been a corresponding failure to fully appreciate the importance of the pivotal values of honor and shame in understanding Scripture and the doctrine of sin” – Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury. Theological Seminary
- Many believe the erroneous idea that sin and shame are different. Put another way, I often hear “Shame is fine to talk about but eventually we have to tell others about their sin!” In the West, we tend to see through an individual lens, and thus shame becomes psychologized and not a part of sin. Shame is not seen as objective. See this post where I expose Kirk Cameron’s “Way of the Master” erroneous Western assumptions. For a more robust treatment, see this Gospel Coalition article entitled “Have Theologians No Sense of Shame? How the Bible Reconciles Objective and Subjective Shame“
- Our Western world tends to suppress biblical categories that make us feel uncomfortable. Reflect on other Biblical categories rarely reflected in the Western church. Lament is a good example…the largest category of Psalms, but the Western church has lost the art of singing what makes up 1/3 of the Psalms. Some of these categories, shame, lament are VERY relevant during our pandemic. Misdirected honor is its own epidemic. But these are the very avenues that God’s given us to bring about greater depth and intimacy with God and with each other.
- Reflect and share with trusted others in your fellowship: How did you learn to deal with shame, with anger. What have you learned about lamenting? I encourage you to name these, share with your fellowship, repent, and take new steps in accountable community.
What does it look like in real life, to engage the Bay Area’s cultural and gender diversity with an honor-shame Gospel?
- Displace Yourself Into the Unfamiliar. Lk 10:2-3. Where is God calling you to displace yourself? Perhaps it’s a space that makes you feel awkward or uncomfortable. Reflect: Bring a circle to mind that God might be calling you towards. Where is your “Samaria”? What apprehensions and fears do you have? How were you taught to see others growing up? How can you make more space for those in your Samarias?
- Vulnerably bring peace. Lk 10:4. Jesus wanted the disciples to experience dependance on Him—rather than on their default sources of security. “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” – Billy Graham. As I continue letting go of things that make me feel secure, I’ve found I’m able to more easily listen, feel, and engage with others. I’ve begun to listen better to the desires and even stories of pain—even if I did not agree with some of their views or choices. Reflect: What are your implicit biases and fears that keep you from bringing peace? What keeps you from being vulnerable to others?
- Look for the people God has already prepared. Lk 10:5. this kind of person has a reputation, is receptive to the peace of God that you bring, and will naturally want to reciprocate with forms of hospitality. I gave an example of one of my friends I saw come to Christ from the LGBTQ community. I’ve gotten to share posts like this one (at the time of his Covid-season passing) to 5000+ of his friends. Reflect: Who is God strategically preparing before you?
- Bring the kingdom of God near to them. Twice within Luke 10:9-11, the Scripture says “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” I shared the example of being asked to lead an interfaith liturgy among the interfaith community of San Francisco. I started by imagining the Kingdom in the faith communities of San Francisco, most of which don’t share our faith. I presented these pictures to other faith leaders and they were sold! All I did was share how there members could be honored through the liturgy through storytelling. See here. Of course, bringing the Kingdom near to people involves prayer, asking God how their story and their community fits into God’s story. The more we are able to imagine our own story, our own work, all our different spaces in God’s story, the more we will be able to imagine picture of the Kingdom for others.
Admittedly, the party I shared with you along with the two years I led an interfaith liturgy are “larger” events that gave beautiful pictures of bringing the Kingdom to SF’s plural cultures. But more importantly, I hope you can see that these “programs” were never the goal, nor can we consider such programs during the pandemic anyway! They are the outflow of Spirit-enabled missional living. And missional living is an outflow of an honor-surplus given to us from God…the same honor Jesus prayed for us in Jn 17, the same honor given in the Beatitudes (this assumes we translated “blessed” as “honor.”
And I hope it’s clear from the Scriptures that we don’t have to “guilt trip” people into the Kingdom. The Scriptures reveal that the Spirit’s approach is much more holistic and collective than that! There is no getting around the fact that conviction of sin needs to happen. But guilt is not the only way. See this from patheos.
Again, the first book I’d recommend is the one I highlighted in the first paragraph. I doubt you can find the combination of scholarship and practice anywhere else. It’s under $10 on Kindle. This is the Amazon link.
Here are two posts where I bring an honor-shame approach to bring a Christian world view to two atheists I met in coffee shops. I often get asked how spiritual conversation comes about with those who identify as atheists. The following are two separate interviews with atheists I got into great conversations with just over coffee.
- The 1st interview was with an engineer like me.
- The 2nd is with a visiting art scholar who created some of the famous hearts any visitor to San Francisco sees scattered through the City.
Above all, I pray this small sermon offering plays a role in the way God is using Grace Covenant to disciple and equip you to keep making disciples of all nations (nations that are increasing coming to Irvine 🙂 )
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