Honor Shame Culture

As primarily an individualist transit culture, we are often unable to comprehend the honor culture in which Jesus lived.  In a time of limited mobility in which the culture you were born in would be the one you would spend the rest of your life, honor and your reputation was everything; once it was gone that was often it.  The rest of your life could be tarnished by any slip up or difficulty.  The woman at the well in John 4 is a great illustration of this.

Sadly this extreme honor culture is still dominant in place like the Middle East and parts of Japan.  In fact here is a story that talks about a forest in Japan that is known as being a destination to kill oneself.  One man named Taro had this to say after recently trying to kill himself there, “I’d lost my identity, so I didn’t want to live on this earth. That’s why I went there.”

Honor/shame cultures are deeply embedded with a sense of duty and obligation.  And when one fails at their duties and roles the are essentially stripped of everything.  To quote Taro, “a loss of identity.”

Followers of Jesus must remember that in good and bad, recession and prosperity, we are to say blessed by the name of the Lord.  That our identity is not as temporary or weak as something as tangential as money or the praise of men.  We are made in the image of our Creator which gives us all eternal dignity value and worth.

ryan

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