There is no question that the world is full of diverse people. People from different cultures have different values and different ways to view right and wrong. The way individuals perceive sin, or the concept of right and wrong, shapes their worldview tremendously. We would be remiss not to acknowledge that when we are sharing the good news of Jesus with them.
During this year of training in Equip, we read “The Messenger, the Message, the Community” by Roland Müller. It is a book based on working in cross-cultural mission fields. In his book, Müller addresses different worldviews and explains three different ways cultures understand the concept of sin. In Genesis 3, sin enters the world. How we perceive what happens between the sin and the judgement is what shapes our different worldviews. Some see and understand the concept of guilt and innocence, others understand shame and honor, and still others understand fear and power. All humans align with one of these concepts more than another.
In America and the western world, we typically understand a guilt/innocence worldview. Our laws are based around it. If someone accuses you of stealing a cookie, you identify as either guilty or not guilty. How does this affect our view of God and sin? When Adam and Eve ate the apple they knew they were naked. Their conscience convicted them. They were guilty. This is why verses like Romans 3:23 resonate with us so well.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23
Much of the Middle East and Far East operate by the worldview of shame and honor. Preserving the honor of one’s family or name is incredibly important. Being a part of a family is important. Shame might cause someone to get kicked out of the family or even killed. In shame/honor cultures, individuals learn to seek honor and avoid shame. The idea of guilty/not guilty is not a part of their worldview. How does this affect their view of God and sin? When Adam and Eve sinned, they heard God in the garden and they hid themselves. They were full of shame. Romans 8:1 speaks to this.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Much of Africa and South America live under a worldview of fear and power. They take the supernatural and see it as commonplace. Müller says, “Everything in life is somehow attributed to the activities of gods, demons, and other forces.” How does this affect their relationship with God and sin? In the garden, Adam and Eve were afraid when they heard God in the garden. People try to avoid fear and to avoid fear they seek some kind of power. The Bible addresses this, as well. There is only one who has the power to take away fear. 1 John 4:18 shows the answer.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
What does this mean for us?
As we enter into relationships with people from other cultures, we must understand how they perceive the world. Telling someone immersed in an honor/share culture that they have freedom from guilt will have little impact. However, sharing the gospel of Jesus and helping them understand how they can be free from shame can make all the difference. When we share the gospel, we should know the incredible power it has. How wonderful is it that the good news is made for all people?! Let us not limit our understanding and delivery of the gospel. It addresses all worldviews and the effects of sin for everyone. Jesus is the answer for fear, guilt, and shame.