To open up our class on honor and shame cultures, the professor told the story of an Asian woman who was being raped in a car by four men when she saw her uncle about to pass by in his vehicle.
…Pausing so we could contemplate what would happen next, he then continued…
The woman buried her face in her hands as well as she could so her uncle couldn’t see or recognize her. She was more concerned with not bringing shame on her family than in rescue from her attackers. Through that illustration and others, we were introduced to how hard it can be for people living in an honor shame culture to proclaim Christ. It can bring great dishonor and shame to the family, and they’ve been taught their whole lives to avoid these at all costs. If a girl would rather endure gang rape and suffer the humiliation silently her whole life, we can’t expect her to profess Christ unless the gospel can radically change her worldview. The Jesus film and quick fix methods can’t accomplish this. Nobody in honor/shame cultures casually converts to another faith.
In much of the world people would not say cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am,” but cognatus ergo sum, “I belong, therefore I exist.” Because of the emphasis people place on their identity, the missionary must be able to redefine family for the people in light of the family of God Furthermore, he must explain the phenomenon that God adopts us into his family, to which we have allegiance. A Christian must be willing to disavow allegiance to their biological family if they don’t accept the faith and be willing to face the shame that brings on them and their family.
A changed mindset of this magnitude can only be accomplished through the power of the Spirit. In the hours of talking through the content, the professor relayed a story from his time on the field. One month, after he’d spent many years in the people group, a few believers from the tribe wanted to go down river to start telling their people group in a neighboring village what they had learned about the true God. The rapids were raging and showed no signs of letting up. Unwilling to wait any longer, the people pushed their canoes into the water. The missionary reluctantly got in and huddled in the back scared to death, After a few minutes, one of the new tribal believers turned back and said, “Don’t worry. Father will take care of us.” Without a care in the world churning in his soul, this esteemed older village man called God Father.
What a perfect reminder that we’re not doing anything to change the world. God is. May we be faithful when the ambition fades and the desire becomes heavy and sticky in the intense humidity. May we live by what we know is true in those days we don’t feel it. May we stay when we want to come home; when we want our kids to know their grandparents and their cousins. May we grieve and cry for our sacrifice and then get up and wash our faces. May our souls be glad when our hearts are raw, when we hate the people, when we’re so done with not being appreciated. May we stay to hear the word “Father” from blood-bought lips.