How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Your answer will be different depending on your worldview. And it’s important to keep these differences in mind when we enter the world of cross-cultural ministry.
Here in North America and also in Europe (often called the Western world) we have a complex legal system based on guilt and innocence — a legal system that has direct effects on the church. Many of our church fathers were trained in the law (John Calvin comes to mind.) So in Western culture we tend to value truth, right from wrong, and individual rights.
On the other hand, in many parts of the world including Africa, the Middle East and Asia, truth and being right are less important than guarding honor and avoiding shame. For many people in these parts of the world, shame is a communal event that can increase or decrease the prestige of a person in a community.
The late author Nabeel Qureshi illustrates this example when he writes of a time in his youth when he would ask for a free cup of water and then fill it with Pepsi. In his eyes, under his worldview, there was nothing wrong with this until someone noticed and called him out on it. Then he experienced shame.
When we come together as people from different cultures and worldviews it is important that we understand these differences. This fundamental approach has theological implications.
Someone from a shame/honor culture will be more attuned to shame than to sin (not that sin won’t also be recognized just as in Western culture we also experience shame) but shame will be the main need identified.
Nabeel Jabbour, another author, tells of taking a Muslim friend to the movie, The Passion of the Christ. After viewing the movie, in light of Christ’s death on the cross, the friend responded with the words, “I am so unclean.” This is the language of shame.
When we share the gospel across worldviews, it is important to remember that Christ not only paid the price of our sin, but he also removed our shame (Hebrews 12:1-3) and made us sons and daughters of God, and even more we are made heirs (and as heirs are given the honor of the Father). This is truly good news!
One book suggestion for follow up reading is "The Global Gospel" by Werner Mischke, MissionONE resources, 2015.
For more ideas on connecting with your Muslim neighbor go to the Salaam page on the Resonate Global Mission website, leave a comment below, or contact [email protected].