I took a summer class this year on the theology of honor and shame. It is definitely in my top 5 favorite classes at Eternity Bible College. It only lasted two weeks, but they were intense and loaded with information. Honor theology is definitely not discussed enough in America. My professor wrote a great introduction to honor theology, which can be purchased here (it’s currently on sale). Below is a journal entry that I wrote for one of my assignments. At the end of the first week, we had to reflect on different questions related to honor and shame for 2 hours, so I decided to journal. The following is my answer to the question, “To live free of shame, what is the one biblical truth (or verse) you ought to remind yourself daily of?“
I think that the central biblical truth for dealing with shame is my identity in Christ. My worth is not dependent on people’s perception or approval of me. I think that Galatians 1:10 conveys this truth: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I should not be trying to please people or gain their approval. Pleasing God is more important. The crazy thing is that God approves of me because I am in Christ. I don’t have to earn that approval. I am to do things that please God, that make his name great. God is not ashamed of me because of Christ’s work on the cross. I should seek to glorify God because of these amazing truths, and I shouldn’t fear the disapproval of man (which could bring shame), because I already have God’s approval. My identity in Christ will never change.
This solid identity should empower me to brush off shame caused by others. This is key…This is my heart-response when I am made fun of for not knowing something related to pop culture or music or TV. It’s not central to my identity, and it doesn’t change my identity. IN THE SAME WAY, this needs to be my heart-response when people shame me for doing something to please or honor God. I need to train my heart to brush off the shame because it doesn’t change my identity. People’s disapproval of my identity as a servant of God is not important because I already have God’s approval through Christ. These truths need to sink deep into my heart, and my heart needs to be trained to respond like this.
It doesn’t come naturally. This hasn’t deeply changed my heart because my culture is predominantly guilt-innocence, and therefore the main gospel presentations are geared towards that culture. This unchanging identity, however, is an honor-shame gospel. It doesn’t speak to my guilt, but to my shame I need to preach this aspect of the gospel to my heart to attack feelings of shame.
I think it’s crazy that since I am in Christ, I receive Christ’s honor, because I’m now associated with his name. It has nothing to do with my performance. This truth is something that I need to constantly need to preach to myself; I need to speak God’s honor to myself, by my identity in Christ. I was encouraged as I re-read this entry, and I hope it is an encouragement to you as well.