“Honor, Shame and the Gospel”—six-week class at Scottsdale Bible Church starts January 24th

sbclogoI am so grateful for my home church, Scottsdale Bible, which has provided me the opportunity to teach a class based on my book, The Global Gospel. The class will incorporate lecture with PowerPoint, handouts, and ample discussion. It will be held six successive Sundays, January 24 to February 28, 11:00 a.m., at the Shea Campus. The classroom is A7. Copies of The Global Gospel are available at the Scottsdale Bible book store/café.

Honor, Shame, and the Gospel

Honor shame and the gospelOverview: How does the gospel speak to a violent world and the refugee crisis? Are there facets of the gospel that especially resonate with Muslims as well as millennials? In this interactive class with the author of The Global Gospel, you’ll discover how understanding the Bible’s own honor/shame dynamics offers fresh answers and powerful hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Class 1: Biblical Honor for a World of Shame: We’ll compare basic Majority World values of honor/shame to Western values of innocence/guilt. We’ll show why guilt is more likely to lead to healing behavior—whereas shame is more likely to lead to hurtful behavior. Could it be that a gospel that focuses on sin and guilt is the “on-ramp” to a gospel that also addresses sin and shame?

Class 2: The Gospel of Honor-Status Reversal: We’ll discover a motif in Scripture—honor-status reversal—hidden in plain sight from Genesis to Revelation. We’ll go through the The Father’s Love Booklet (each attendee gets a copy). We’ll learn how to share the gospel in the “language of honor and shame”. It’s a new, easy way to share Christ with people from Majority World cultures.

Class 3: The Gospel of Purity: Christians know they are forgiven. But for many, a sense of shame persists. How does the Bible’s “purity language” speak to us through the gospel to forgive, cleanse and restore? How does the gospel speak to Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist peoples with their ritual purity practices? This is good news here and now—and across cultures.

Class 4: The Gospel of the Kingdom for a Violent World: Honor-based violence makes the news daily. Yet the church is weak in its understanding and response. Discover how the dark side of honor and shame fuels violence. Examine how Christ’s honor-sharing “gospel of the kingdom” offers a powerful cure for violence—a living hope and powerful message for the world today.

Class 5: The Gospel that Speaks to Postmodernism and Pluralism: How can our theology emphasize “sola Scriptura” (the sole authority of Scripture)—while also speaking to our postmodern, pluralistic world? We will examine three ways: 1) Acknowledging blind spots in Western theology; 2) addressing the sinful pathology of shame; and 3) magnifying the multicultural essence of the gospel.

Class 6: The Story of Joseph as Gospel Motif: Can the story of Joseph (Gen 37–50) help us make sense of the whole Bible? We’ll explore the motif of honor-status reversal in this amazing drama. In so doing, we’ll see God’s sovereignty over evil, his purpose to bless all peoples through his honorific family, and his persistent reversal of honor status—all pointing to the glorious gospel.

Questions? Please write to me at werner@mission1.org.

Why so much honor-based violence in the Bible? Part 1

Honor-based violenceThe Bible is a great big book about violence.

One could rightly say that the Bible is at once 1) God’s revelation of the origin of violence among humans, 2) a series of stories and case histories on the kinds of violence common to humanity, and 3) God’s revelation through the Jesus Christ as the cure for violence on the stage of human history.

Of course, the Bible is more than a great big book about violence, but it is certainly not less than this.

In the Old Testament, there is an enormous amount of murder, raping, bloody revenge, the stoning of sinful people, decapitation of enemies and kings, the offering of infants in ritual sacrifice, whole cities being destroyed, entire peoples and armies either enslaved or annihilated … and so much more.

In the New Testament we read of the murder of infants, the decapitation of John the Baptist, the stoning of righteous people, the bloody torture and crucifixion of the holy Son of God, the martyrdom of saints.

Blood and honorLet‘s face it: The Bible is a big book with a lot of violence, much of it honor-based violence. But why?

In this series of posts, I am proposing:

  • The Bible reveals the origin of human violence—and that it is largely honor-based.
  • The Bible describes the kinds of violence in the Bible and in our world today—and that what they have in common is that they are both largely honor-based. This reflects the pathology of sin/shame permeating humanity—as well as the cultural value of honor/shame.
  • The Bible reveals that the cure for humanity’s violence is found in Jesus Christ, and we will see that this cure may also be considered honor-based.

And if there will be one point to grab hold of from these posts, it will be this:

The numerous stories of honor-based violence and bloodshed in the Old Testament—often considered obscure, repulsive, or irrelevant—are, to the contrary, profoundly relevant entry points for the gospel in today’s world.

Gory stories and glory stories

What else will this series of posts lead to? I will contend that we must rediscover the Old Testament’s stories of violence—what I am calling the “gory stories”.

I will propose that we must teach, preach, and evangelize by using the Bible’s gory stories—for they are historic, narrative on-ramps to God’s own gory and glory Story—culminating with the good news, the gospel of peace in Jesus Christ.

Christian leaders of all kinds need to re-acquaint themselves with the bloody, gory, “adult content” of the Bible—and be willing to teach it and preach it.

The Bible’s numerous, dramatic stories of violence are there for a reason. That reason is to connect—to resonate, to speak with Christ-centered hope to a world awash in violence. For the Word of God pierces “to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow” (Heb 4:12).

We must recover the truth that the entire Bible is useful for evangelism, not merely a set of a few verses or biblical presuppositions. The entire Bible, even the gory stories can be an essential, exciting part of making disciples of all nations—so that King Jesus is known and worshiped among all the peoples of the earth.

Could it be that the peoples of the earth are actually longing to hear this gospel which speaks with blood-earnest, street-level authenticity to our worlds of violence?

A new honor code to end honor-based violence

The Honor Code | Katy Chevigny from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Thanks to HonorShame.com, I learned about this short video which artfully describes the problem of honor-based violence—and how it can be overcome. It presents a secular view on the subject, and has really worthwhile content.

Here’s the main idea: Honor-based violence can be overcome through a new honor code.

Now isn’t that what Jesus teaches? We have a new honor code as we follow Christ—as we pattern our lives after his.

Consider these two well-known passages about Jesus’ reversal of honor codes:

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

Easy to say it, hard to live it

We all know this is not easy, even for those who follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.

How can we actually live out these new reverse-honor codes?

Here’s how: I believe the Bible teaches that God himself shares with us his honor and glory, so that we gain an “honor-surplus” … and build “shame-resilience”.[1] In turn, Jesus himself empowers us to live in a way that reflects his very love and servanthood. We can actually endure shame, and be “last of all and servant of all”—living out the reverse honor codes of Jesus.

We can do this because God has already shared with us his own honor and glory!

We can call a cease -fire! Because of Jesus, we are not compelled to defend our honor or engage in honor competition—because we are already so abundantly honored in Christ! We are literally peacemakers (Mat 5:9–10)—in the honor and under the reign—of King Jesus.

God shares his glory with his people

Consider these verses that reveal that God actually shares with his people his honor and glory:

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44).

… for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God (John 12:43).

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one (John 17:22).

In addition, these verses below show that followers of Jesus Christ are, in fact, to be given honor, to seek glory, and to be called glorious.

So the honor is for you who believe … (1 Pet 2:7)

To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom 2:7).

… that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21).

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory (1 Cor 2:7).

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones (Jude 1:8).

Do you see it? We have a new source of honor in following Jesus.

The verses above are but a small sampling from Scripture which tell followers of Christ that God is sharing with us his glory and honor. (Click here to learn more about the believer’s honor-status reversal through salvation.) This abundant honor surplus in Jesus helps us overcome rivalry, conflict and violence in our relationships.

Oh, how we need to experience the glory and honor of God—our honor-surplus in Christ—to build peace-filled marriages, families, communities, churches, and nations.

A new honor code through following Jesus Christ—this ends honor-based conflict.

1. For more on the concept of “shame resilience”, see Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (New York: Gotham, 2012).

Did shame lead to the Holocaust?

Bergen-Belsen was a concentration camp for Jews between 1940 and 1945. According to Wikipedia, “The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945, by the British 11th Armoured Division. The soldiers discovered approximately 60,000 prisoners inside, most of them half-starved and seriously ill, and another 13,000 corpses lying around the camp unburied.”

I did NOT want to go to a concentration camp memorial while on vacation in Germany in early August.

But my wife Daphne insisted. My cousin’s daughter Stephanie said it was a good idea. Onkel Udo especially agreed.

So on Thursday, August 6, 2015, we all drove from Hanover to the memorialized concentration camp in Germany called Bergen-Belsen—all seven of us in my cousin’s VW minivan.

I did much research about honor and shame my book The Global Gospel. One of the insights I gained concerns the pathology of shame. Here’s the principle I learned:

Guilt tends to lead to healing behavior,
whereas shame tends to lead to hurtful

It is one thing to see the effect of shame on a personal level. But when the pathology of shame impacts whole societies and nations, it becomes truly horrendous. James W. Jones writes,

The two greatest group humiliations of the modern age produced the two greatest movements of genocide and terrorism in the modern world: the collapse of the Ottoman Empire along with the imposition of European colonialism on the Arab world leading to the rise of the jihad; and the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War and the appeal of Nazism in Germany.[2]

So let’s look at the second of these “two greatest group humiliations” in a little more detail. For it is a fact of history that a shamed Germany after the First World War contributed to the rise the Hitler and the Nazi party, which led to the horrors of the Second World War and the Jewish holocaust.

“Hier Ruhen 5000 Tote” — “Here Lie 5000 Dead”, April 1945
Shame as fuel for genocide in Nazi Germany

Concerning the humiliation—the shaming—of Germany following World War One, Jones writes:

The Treaty of Versailles removed all of Germany’s colonies from its control, laid on Germany the worst sanctions that decimated the economy, and demanded its disarmament. All of these had been sources of pride and their loss was a total humiliation for the Germans. These humiliations along with the virtual collapse of the weak Weimar government and the German economy laid the groundwork for Hitler’s rise to power. German veterans returning to a defeated and destabilized nation reported “as a Front-fighter, the collapse of the Fatherland in November 1918 was to me completely incomprehensible,” or “I had believed adamantly in Germany’s invincibility and now I only saw the country in its deepest humiliation—the entire world fell to the ground.”[3]

Jones continues, describing the longing of the German people to regain their honor:

People holding such sentiments became the core of the Nazi movement. National humiliation caused by military defeat, internal political weakness, and economic collapse had at least two disastrous results for Germany and for the rest of the world: it set off a furious search for scapegoats, for someone or some group to blame and to punish for all this suffering; and it unleashed a ferocious drive to undo the humiliation by defeating those who had humiliated Germany. Many citizens were vulnerable to someone who could explain which group was to blame and could offer a way to Bergen-Belsen3overcome the humiliation. That person was obviously Adolf Hitler who pointed the finger of responsibility at Jews and other “non-Aryans” and had a plan to restore German prominence through military conquest.[4]

It is ironic that the national shame that fueled World War Two and the Holocaust ended up giving Germany the reputation as the most barbaric of civilized nations—shaming the German people for generations for their descent into such horrible evil.

My father was a soldier in the German army. He only survived because he was captured by the Allied Forces. He became a prisoner of war in Poland for four-and-a-half years. After he was freed, he came to America with his father, mother and two brothers. I am therefore a second-generation American from a German family. The ‘German guilt and shame’ of which I have written above has touched my life and other members of my extended family in deep and enduring ways.

Of course, what my family experienced is nothing compared to the mammoth, murderous humiliation and shame suffered by the Jews of Germany and Europe—at the hands of the nationalistic honor-seeking Nazis and Germans.

Oh, how we need to understand and overcome the dark and devilish side of honor and shame.


  1. What can we learn from the anemic response of the German church to the horrors of the nationalistic Nazi political machine? To explore the relationship between so-called “German Christian movement” and the Nazi party, see Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany.
  2. Consider the campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. To what extent does this reflect the longing to recover our national honor in America’s current political climate? How might this be healthy or unhealthy, godly or ungodly?
  3. Does the gospel of Christ cover our sin and shame, and answer the human longing for honor? For a gospel presentation that speaks to these concerns, see The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet. Or, see a more comprehensive treatment of the subject in THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World.

Note: Portions of this post have been excerpted
from my book,
The Global Gospel.


1. See June Tangney and Ronda Dearing, Shame and Guilt (New York: Guilford Press, 2002).

2. James W. Jones, “Shame, Humiliation, and Religious Violence: A Self-Psychological Investigation,” in Jewett, Robert, Wayne L. Alloway, and John G. Lacey, eds. The Shame Factor: How Shame Shapes Society. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011, p. 41.

3. Jones quotes an article by David Redles, “Ordering Chaos: Nazi Millennialism and the Quest for Meaning,” in The Fundamentalist Mindset: Psychological Perspectives on Religion, Violence, and History, ed. Charles B. Strozier et al., (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 156–74.

4. Jones, 41.