Honoured, Holy, Righteous and Clean:
Human Aspiration and the Gospel
by Paul Hazelden


 

(Work in progress...)

 

Introduction

Humans often struggle to communicate and work with those who have a different value system. It is sometimes said that the Western world bases its legal system on the concept of guilt, while some other parts of the world base their legal system on the concept of shame.

So, for example, in some places a father will kill his own unmarried daughter if he discovers that she is pregnant, because the alternative would bring shame ('dishonour') on the family. In English culture, this response is unthinkable.

In England, various parts of society regard criminal activity as an ordinary part of life, and punishment by the courts by way of fines or prison are just an occupational hazard. But, almost without exception, each of these criminals will readily explain what they would never do: there is a strong moral code, even if it does not correspond to the requirements of the law.

What difference does it make to grow up in a society where shame matters more than guilt? Or where ritual purity is the first priority?

These issues touch on the deepest areas of human life: on our actions and motivations, on our deepest needs. If the Gospel is God's response to our deepest needs, somehow the Gospel message must tie in, be affected by them. The Gospel, if it is a universal message, must speak to people across all societies and within all cultures.

The Gospel, perhaps, never changes. But the words we use, and the emphasis on different aspects, will vary from place to place and person to person. How does the Gospel message accommodate these very different social settings we find across the world?

The question is increasingly urgent and relevant, as different cultures and values jostle with each other.

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