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This is a follow up to a post I recently wrote on the Shame-Honor worldview

When we lived in West Africa it was customary for my wife to visit a new mother. She would never compliment the new baby. This may be surprising to North Americans. Here it is customary to coo and fawn over a new baby and give many compliments (after all babies are cute!).

The people group we lived with often gave babies funny names, like Bill with the Big Nose. Why insult your baby with such a name? The answer is familiar to people from Africa and the Middle East. The Evil Eye. The Evil Eye roams the earth looking for a victim. If you bring too much attention to a baby, it might attract the Evil Eye leading to a sick baby and maybe even a dead baby (not uncommon in this part of West Africa). In theological language, this phenomenon is part of a fear-power worldview. While we in the West tend to downplay this kind of supernatural worldview, for many in the world it is very real.

When we focus on the sin-guilt-righteous worldview in our Gospel presentation, we are being biblical and correct. But we might be missing out on an opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level. Focusing on their main need of fear—and then moving on to sin and shame can be effective. We have a powerful Gospel, and Christ’s death on the cross is victory over all the powers of this present world. 1 John 3:8 says that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

That is good news when you come from a fear-power worldview, and needs to be part of the way we also see Christ at work in the world. The atonement theory that speaks to this worldview is Christus Victor—that Christ has had complete victory over the forces of evil through his death on the cross and the power evident in His resurrection from the dead. We live into that victory now while we await the consummation of that victory in His second coming.


Thanks, Greg, for a great nudge toward mission through compassion. Neil Plantinga, in his book, "Not The Way It's Supposed To Be", identified anxiety as the context for sin and brokenness in this world. If the cure for fear is perfect love, and God is defined as love itself, is it any wonder that there is no command repeated more often in the Bible than "Do not be afraid." To address fear is to address the context for sin. Helping people find freedom from fear is helping them to become more Godly. 

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