Jesus in an Honor and Shame-Based Culture


Nobody likes to be embarrassed. Or look goofy. Or stupid. But we have very few reference points for the place of honor and shame in the West. If we succeed, it is easy to take all the credit as we were “pursuing our dreams.” If we mess up, we don’t typically think of the implications for those we love.

A lady approached me after a meeting. She said she was sorry for the shame she had brought on her family and the local church community because of her failures. I was shocked. Not because she was so broken and brutally honest, but because she was aware that her failures affected others. As I listened to her, it became clear she was expressing a profound and healthy grief. She wanted to do whatever was needed to restore trust…

Rather than say, “Oh, you don’t need so feel bad. Everything is gonna be ok…,” it was apparent she needed to be heard and receive the mercy only God could give. I reaffirmed her place in community- not lost because of her sins but all the more important in this process. It was as though a 100 lb. weight had been cut off her shoulders (think Robert De Niro in “The Mission”).

Repentance (changing direction and the way we think) and restitution (restoring trust when it is broken) are absolutely essential to healthy community.

Jesus performed his first miracle at a party. For the young couple, running out of wine would be like inviting your most respected hero to your house and burning the dinner. The whole community had gathered for a weeklong celebration. The young couple would have experienced tremendous shame. But Jesus intervenes and turns 150 gallons of water into wine.


Why did He choose a wedding party to perform His first miracle? Why turn water into wine? It was a sign, pointing to something more important. He was going to take away the shame that could never be removed by ceremonial washing and religious practice. He had authority and power over shame and over His creation.

He could take the ordinary and transform it into something extraordinary. He would take shame and transform it into honor. And He is still doing the same thing today.

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