Sunday, September 26, 2010

Disappointment. Honor vs. Shame

One of the toughest things my father ever said to me was "Diane, I'm disappointed in you."  Hearing those words from him was worse than a kick in the gut.  I did everything possible in my life to ensure that he wouldn't have to say those words and I wouldn't have to hear them.

A major separation that stands between our culture and the culture of the New Testament is one of Honor and Shame.  In the New Testament, those were two ways that the culture brought about good behavior and dissuaded others from acting poorly.  When the New Testament church began breaking away from the Jewish religion, shame came down on them and Paul had to realign their ideas so that honor came from obeying God and not mankind's standards.  As you read the letters in the New Testament, you see this coming into play over and over again.

The crucifixion was the most shameful way there was to die in the first century, it brought shame not only to the one being killed, but to his (her) friends and family as well.  It was a huge adjustment for those first century Christians to accept that Jesus dying on the cross brought honor to Himself and to the name of God. 

We accept much of this now because as time progressed, the idea of honor and shame shifted.  It was honorable to worship the emperor ... but in the church, they transformed that so that the Christians began to define honor as worshiping God.

Much of the discussion that I am involved in within my classes has to do with how our churches today behave as opposed to the behavior of first century Christians.  Many of the people in my classes are already pastoring small churches, are youth pastors in larger churches or are intending to move into ministry upon graduation.

While everyone has hope for the church at large, there is a great deal of recognition of the fact that the church has greatly been corrupted by the honor/shame effect from society and finds it difficult to withstand those pressures.  There is an increasingly large chasm between those who attend church, those who are attached to a church, those who are open to attending church and those who want nothing to do with the organized church.  Then, we seem to be completely separated from an increasing number of people who want nothing to do with God ... with religion ... with us.

A large number of churches and church goers no longer really care about that chasm or the people on the other side.  It's too easy to sit in a pretty building with pretty people and be safe from the world that needs us. There's no risk, there's no extravagant love, there's no glorious generosity, there's no beauty ... there's no honor and there should be great shame.

While there are a great many church communities that actively reach out to the world and find ways to create the Kingdom of God in their midst, these churches are less prevalent than we might wish they would be.  

Today, I am disappointed in the church.  I am disappointed in what people believe church is.  I have hope for the universal church of God, but I am certain that for Her to lay claim to the people of this world ... wherever they may be found ... the church will look very different from what we believe it must be today.

I am disappointed.

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