In the Old and New Testament, impurity and uncleanness relegated people as lower-status social ‘outsiders’ in varying levels of shame. The greater the uncleanness, defilement or pollution, the deeper the shame.
Likewise, cleanness, sanctification or holiness identified people as higher-status social ‘insiders’ in varying levels of honor. The greater the cleanness, purity, even holiness, the higher the honor. The Mosaic laws of Leviticus defined for the Hebrew people purity codes and the cycle of sanctification.
Though strange to Western/secular sensibilities, these purity codes are crucial to understanding both God’s covenant with the Hebrews, as well as the radical nature of Christ’s ministry. Jesus transcended Old Testament laws of ritual cleansing—offering his cure for people in shame due to moral failure, disease, disability, disfiguration, or death. The New Testament frequently uses “purity language” to describe what God has done in Christ for humanity.
The gospel is much more than a cure for sin/guilt; it is also a cure for sin as uncleanness/shame. The Western theological default toward judicial language in presenting the gospel should be supplemented by purity language for better contextualization.
The gospel of purity will better resonate with peoples in oral and honor/shame cultures. Many of these peoples are unreached in the Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim blocs—all of whom practice their own distinct cleansing rituals and are honor/shame-oriented in their cultural values. Therefore, developing an awareness of the gospel of purity is a strategic issue.