Discuss: How the Gospel Speaks to Our Culture

This weekend on The Saturday Session, attorney and RZIM Senior Vice President Abdu Murray uses the lens of the gospel to explain that the sentence proclaimed by modern culture is a sentence unapproved and overruled by Heaven.

Our cultural methods put a sentence on us: they can silence us from sharing the truth, and they can silence us from accepting the truth.

In an innocence and guilt culture, when you have broken a law or you’ve broken some moral standard of the community…you have done something wrong, which means that you can do something to fix it. In an honor shame culture, when you’ve broken some kind of social mores or whatever it might be, you have not done something wrong, you have become someone bad, and you need an identity change to fix it. You can’t do something to fix it; you have to become someone different to fix it.

Truth is not barely propositional; it is propositional, but it’s not barely propositional. Its power is conveyed in the way in which it’s communicated.

Truth is often obscured by fear of shame or dishonor…[I]t’s not just accepting the truth that is obscured by fear or shame it’s sharing the truth that is obscured by fear of shame.

You see how powerful this can be when there are negative consequences to accepting the truth and embracing the truth. The consequences are so powerful that you actually mistake the consequences for the truth - they’re not the same!

He pardons our guilt, which removes our shame. We are declared innocent because God is honored.

Our cultural methods put a sentence on us: it silences us from sharing the truth, and it silences us from accepting the truth. But it is a sentence unapproved and overruled by heaven.

Make it Personal

  • Can you think of a time where fear of shame or dishonor obscured your sharing of the truth?

  • Have you done the behind every question challenge, taking the time to (1) ask open ended questions, and (2) to take the time to listen, and (3) committed to them as a questioner?

  • What does it look like to practically live out a life that isn’t bound by a sentence of shame and fear?

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How true a message this is. I found this powerful and caught myself nodding my head a lot and praying throughout it for help and forgiveness. I’ve had many times that simply telling someone who I didn’t know was a Christian that Jesus loves him/her felt like stepping out of a safe place and so didn’t. That was from fear of rejection or being made fun of…being made to feel shame on some level. The part of Brother Abdu’s talk about men loving the praise of men more than the praise of God was a convicting check-point. I love the Lord. How could I possibly be ashamed of sharing anything about Him? I want to be willing to put myself out there when the stakes are high, and it makes me ashamed of myself to know I’ve failed when the stakes were incredibly low. I’m thankful for this message and how it gets to the core of me and makes me think.

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There’s something else prodding for my attention in Abdu’s remarks, one of the parts you quoted, Joshua.

In an innocence and guilt culture, when you have broken a law or you’ve broken some moral standard of the community…you have done something wrong, which means that you can do something to fix it. In an honor shame culture, when you’ve broken some kind of social mores or whatever it might be, you have not done something wrong, you have become someone bad, and you need an identity change to fix it. You can’t do something to fix it; you have to become someone different to fix it.

This hearkens my mind to something Michael Ramsden said in the short course earlier this year. I can’t reference that now, but it was in his lecture called “The Ontological Root of the Gospel.” He talked about how Christ actually changes who we are, how Christianity is not just rooted and grounded in thinking, feeling, or doing: Christianity is rooted and grounded in being. With any other type of belief system, if we do, think, or feel something misaligned with our belief system, then we have to put a question mark over who we are. Our identity is then called into question. I link this to Abdu’s remarks about how in an honor/shame culture someone who has done wrong has become someone wrong and must have a change of identity and become someone else. This is exactly what needs to happen and is really only possible through Jesus Christ! Only Jesus through His sacrifice on and victory over the cross and over sin actually has authority to redeem humanity. When we are sinners, we are indeed someone who is wrong and in need of a change in identity. And Jesus Christ can literally regenerate sinners into sons and daughters of God through His blood when we repent of our wrongdoing and believe on Him. He suffered what was ours to bear that we might be saved.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.
“We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

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I completely agree with you, @Leah, on how this message keeps coming back. I’ve already referenced it in two or three conversations since listening to it! I’ve found it especially poignant in concert with Michael Ramsden’s talk about our victim culture. What a force shame has become in our culture!

As I look at these incisive cultural analyses, I think, “Ah, yes, that’s how the world is!” But all too easily, I forget to think about what my heart and mind is like. I’ve been trying to consider (1) how I have utilized shame to meet my own ends, and (2) what role there is for shame in God’s economy of sanctification.

In Ezekiel 16, God paints an incredibly vivid image of Israel’s wickedness and faithlessness. Then, at the end of the chapter in verses 59-62, God says:

I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.

I think this is really interesting to consider how God leaves off here, just hard stop on “remember your shame” - it would seem as though remembering the shamefulness of our wickedness ought to drive us to contrition and repentance. It is almost as though we need to recall not only the Ebenezer of God’s faithfulness but also our faithlessness and wickedness.

What do you think? Is there is a fruitful and helpful role of shame in our Christian walk?

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Great example. That is a strong point–the hard stop you referenced–on shame in Ezekiel 16. Since God thought Jerusalem needed to feel it and sit with it to work something good in her, I’d expect when we likewise sin we would likewise benefit from the fruitfulness of shame as well. Like you so well said, “…remembering the shamefulness of our wickedness ought to drive us to contrition and repentance.”

Acknowledging that shame can be both a positive and negative tool perhaps depending on who’s wielding it and why, I think shame can help facilitate a necessary work through conviction in the Christian’s life. If we miss recognizing our sin and experiencing conviction over it (I usually think in terms of conviction rather than contrition—is there a difference?) as conviction seems to naturally manifest through feeling ashamed, we may not repent of our sin. We generally have to recognize that we need to repent to do so. That’s true when we repent unto salvation and through the remainder of our life. We realize this need and respond. Our Christian walk is aided by shame when it leads us to repentance.

Ezekiel 16 that you quoted from has a verse that stuck out to me. Verse 6 says, “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.” Three times God points out Jerusalem was in her own blood when He intervened for her. That sounds in idea much like while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Pair that with Romans 2:4 “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” When we see how rotten and undeserving of God’s goodness we are, it makes us see in greater measure how good He really is. I think the more we get to know Him and walk in His forgiveness the more we’ll see His holiness and our fallen-ness and find opportunities in our life to become more like Him.

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