Honor and Innocence

I read an article recently that, for me, shined a light on the Gospel from a new angle. It pointed out that there are three primary types of cultures: guilt, shame, and fear. Each culture seems to hold one of these three methods of persuading its people to follow the rules. 

In the U.S., we’ve been known as a guilt culture. People are pressured to obey laws because they know that if they are found guilty of breaking them, there will be consequences. Once convicted, the quickest path back to good standing is to prove innocence. Without being declared innocent, people are seen as “less-than,” and they even struggle to find jobs. 

Shame cultures bring their people under subjection by, well, shaming them. Rebels against the norm are classified as outcasts by most in their societies. The severity of their punishment varies from no longer being part of the “in crowd” to imprisonment or death. They need to somehow regain honor in order to be restored.

Fear cultures tend to be found in less modernized civilizations. People are kept in line by threats of curses or physical harm, trial not included. The way to escape the fear is to attain power. 

As a Westerner, I am most impacted by the way that the grace of Jesus speaks into my guilt. I knew that I was guilty of my crimes, and I knew that I’d never have the money to even post bail. But Jesus took my place and paid my debt. Now, I stand  before God innocent because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, which attributed to me His innocence. 

Although the West as a whole has generally been known as a guilt culture, it appears that we are well on our way to becoming a bit of a guilt/shame hybrid. People are shamed in schools and workplaces for holding views that oppose the masses. This flame has been burning for some time, but social media has poured a new line of gasoline for it to follow. In just about every post that receives a good number of comments, at least a few will be found that attempt to shame someone for their point of view. People are shamed for their religious beliefs, their bodies, their political alliances, their races, you name it. Like it or not, shame is trying to steal guilt’s protagonist role here in the west. 

My default when I tell someone about the Gospel  is to speak of how Jesus has wiped away their guilt. But today, people need to hear that He has taken away their shame as well. Jesus didn’t just die to give you innocence, He also died to give you honor. We hold onto shame because we know we are guilty of the things that bring it. But once our guilt is wiped away, we are free to let go of our shame as well. 

Hebrews 12: w says “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” What does it mean that He despised the shame? John Piper puts it, in part, like this: ”

“You think you are great, because even last night you made my disciples run away. You are a fool, Shame. You are a despicable fool. That abandonment, that loneliness, this cross — these tools of yours — they are all my sacred suffering, and will save my disciples, not destroy them. You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy. Farewell, Shame. It is finished.”


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