A Gospel for All Cultures

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1126687-globe-isolated-on-pure-white-backgroundBy: Dr. Karen Stoufer

Throughout history there have been three basic worldviews that address spiritual issues; the first focuses on guilt and innocence, the second on fear and power and the third on honor and shame. A three-dimensional (3D) gospel is one that recognizes that God has a solution for all three.

In North America and Western Europe we tend to strongly focus on issues of guilt and innocence. Our human approach to wrong-doing or sin is to say, “I made a mistake” and to emphasize what the individual actually did. Our cultural solution is to right the wrong, seek justice and to impose punishments such as fines or incarceration.In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, people tend to focus on issues of fear and power that are often unseen. The cultural human reaction is to seek out and connect with known sources of power such as voodoo, magic or astrology. People perform rituals and sacrifices to gain power over or release from evil spirits. The emphasis is on connecting with a greater power source.

In the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, much of society is arranged around honor and shame. These cultures emphasize “saving face”. Rather than a focus on the sin as a “mistake” as in Western cultures, it is the sinner who is at fault. They become the mistake rather than the action itself. This view is prevalent in communal societies where honor comes from who you are and how you meet the expectations and traditions of the community.

Human solutions to shame include hiding (e.g. Adam and Eve in the garden), exile, suicide (e.g. the desire of the jailer in Acts 16), revenge (e.g. Dinah’s brothers in Genesis 34) and terrorism.

The Christian Response

In the last 100 years, the West has remained largely reached. Catholics, mainline Protestants and Evangelicals have been primarily responsible for the growth of Christianity in these areas with a focus on the individual sinner, and God’s solution to the problem of sin through the redemption and forgiveness of sin made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection.

We’ve also seen a dramatic increase in the number of Christians in Africa and the Caribbean. Charismatic and Pentecostal churches have been active in these regions, putting a strong emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s defeat of sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Yet despite years of missionary effort and sacrifice, Asia has remained largely unreached.
Some of the challenges in these locations are geographic, some are political, and some are linguistic. But the greatest challenge may be that the Christian church has not sufficiently emphasized God’s solution to their worldview –honor and shame.

Christ’s Response

The message for this culture is clear –that Christ suffered and bore shame for us through His death on the cross. He conquered sin and death and returned in honor and glory through the resurrection. His honor has covered our shame and He invites us to share in His honor and to be adopted into His family.

Interestingly, there are twice as many words about honor and shame in the Bible than words about guilt and forgiveness of sin. The Bible was written and Jesus walked, taught and lived in an honor/shame based culture. But many Westerners have not seen this.

The forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit are important for all believers. But by failing to also make known that God’s honor covers our shame, we may have missed a crucial bridge to making Christ known. We have neglected a critical dimension of our 3D gospel and the bigger question becomes –as Christian veterinarians reaching and serving diverse communities around the world, what are we doing about it?

For more information, resources and further reading on reaching guilt, shame and fear cultures, please visit www.HonorShame.com.

Curious as to what your worldview might be? Take the Culture Test!

This article is featured in the Summer 2015 issue of the Christian Veterinarian, the CVM quarterly Journal. Click here to receive your copy of the Journal.

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