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Honor-Shame Cultures and the Gospel Message

In the United States and many other countries, the gospel message is rather straightforward (with some variations, of course). Unfortunately, evangelists tend to leave out Genesis, which has the origin of everything and tells us where sin and death began. Things get more complicated when dealing with people who have honor and shame in their cultures.

When sharing the gospel with people from cultures emphasizing honor and shame, we must learn how they think and show how the gospel meets their needs.
Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos / tawatchai
Honor and shame are closely associated with pride, but in some cultures, it affects the entire family. Also, they want to save face, and even help you or I to do the same so dignity is maintained. People will "accept Jesus" without knowing what that means, and those who believe in many false gods will add the real one into the mix. 

Missionaries have reported false conversions through misunderstandings, but have had far better success when beginning with Genesis. We need to learn about the people we are talking with and to change tack so we can take their mindset into account. We can tell them about the shame and humiliation that Jesus endured, and how God honors us in salvation.
Maintaining honour and avoiding shame are hugely important aspects of life and worldview for the majority of the people of the world, particularly those who live in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. They may be Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Judaists, animists, polytheists, or atheists, and they have the least access to the Christian Gospel and Christian resources.
. . . 
In these cultures, relationships guide decision making, so the most important identity is the family, rather than each individual, as in the West. The family makes the decisions, and the primary concern of members is to maintain honour and avoid shame (or ‘save face’) for their family, because what a person does brings honour or shame not only upon themselves but upon the whole family—indeed often also upon the entire community. Great respect is usually given to the elderly in the family, and in some cultures this may extend to the honouring of the spirits of dead ancestors by means of food offerings. In such cultures, often the father is the main decision-maker on behalf of the family.
The full article is found at "Preaching the Gospel in honour/shame societies".



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