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Evangelism in an Honor and Shame Culture, Part 2

Let My People Think / Ravi Zacharias
The Truth Network Radio
May 30, 2020 1:00 am

Evangelism in an Honor and Shame Culture, Part 2

Let My People Think / Ravi Zacharias

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May 30, 2020 1:00 am

Many times people are hesitant to become Christians not because they don't believe, but because of the consequences they might face in their own family. So how can we share the Gospel in these situations? This week on Let My People Think, RZIM Speaker, Abdu Murray shares his thoughts on this tough situation many of us have faced.

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You can find out more about Ravi Zacharias and the team at I think it's important as a believer in Christ and even do some introspecting into your own heart about what your witnesses looked like over the past few minutes, past few years, whatever it might be. Welcome back to Let My People Think. What you do and how you act is far more powerful than the words you say. Therefore, evangelism is more than just talking with someone about Christianity. It requires you to live a life that reflects Christ. As Abdu Murray just said, it's important to examine your own heart before sharing the gospel. But what does this have to do with sharing the gospel with those from Eastern worldviews? Let's find out as we rejoin Abdu as he continues to look at how to share the gospel in an honor and shame culture.

Here's Abdu now. I fly a lot, obviously, and so I've seen a lot of the movies that are worth seeing on Delta. So you turn to TED Talks eventually. And I watched this TED Talk. It's Monica Lewinsky gives this TED Talk about a 30-minute long TED Talk on shame. And she's talking about the whole ordeal. And this is what she says.

There are no perimeters around how many people can publicly observe you and put you in a public stockade. This is describing the age of social media. Of course, what happened with her was well before social media, but emails were still quite a bit there and you could get things forwarded and whatnot. The shift, she said, has created what Professor Nicholas Mills calls a culture of humiliation. And then she says this, I was branded a tramp, a tart, and a few other names I won't tell you. And of course, that woman. I was seen by many, but actually known by few.

And I get it. It was easy to forget that that woman was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken. You know, she considered suicide. And it was interesting to me, first of all, just interesting that she said that the words that really bothered her weren't all the insults and the slurs and all that stuff. You know, the tart and the none of that stuff bothered her as much. It did bother her, but not as much as being called that woman.

Being dismissed as that troublemaking woman. You could tell whether she said it, it wounded her deeply. But it wasn't just the guilt over what she had done. She had acknowledged the wrongness of what she had done.

What had driven her almost to suicide was the shame. It is very endemic to Western society. So don't think of it as over there. It's not over there. It's right here.

It's right here. And if we understand this, we can reach not just Easterners and Middle Easterners, but our own folks as well. I find this amazing, by the way. You know, as we get more technologically advanced, specifically with our communication ability, we think the Bible is this outmoded, outdated, irrelevant, curious document. But the fact of the matter is that because of social media, we're becoming more and more like each other so that ancient cultures from the East and from the Middle East, which bear this honor and shame sort of paradigm, are becoming very much like, or we are becoming very much like them. And so despite our technologies, I would even say because of our technology, the Bible is proving itself more relevant than ever.

It is the living and active word. How do you deal with it? How do we deal with it? How do we evangelize and honor shame culture? And I think that the first thing we have to think about is how we can expose the barrier that shame actually is.

See, a lot of folks will tell you, even from the East, they'll start with intellectual objections. And folks in the West will start with intellectual objections, but they're really oftentimes a mask or a smokescreen for the deep personal objections which have to do with this shame and this fear of shame as well. Because shame has the power to distort reality. The cost of truth, the consequences of truth, has the power to distort reality.

See, this is the thing. People know subconsciously what things cost, but they don't know what they're worth. And I think it's important as a believer in Christ, and even do some introspection into your own heart about what your witnesses looked like over the past few minutes, past few years, whatever it might be, you know what the price of evangelism is, but do you know what it's worth?

So I think it's important for us to take an introspective look at our own witness, but also look at other people and what they're facing and say, how can we remove or actually get around the barrier that shame actually is? Because it does have the power to distort reality. It really, really does.

It really does. Many of you have seen The Passion of the Christ, right? Raise your hand if you haven't seen it. No, everyone went down.

I tricked you. It's like part of the catechism now. You have to see this movie to be a Christian. You remember the scene? It's biblically consistent.

So there's a scene. Pilate is before Jesus, and I say that intentionally. I don't think Jesus is before Pilate.

I think Pilate was being judged, not Jesus, but from an earthly standpoint, it was Jesus on trial, and they go back and forth, and they ask questions, and of course, Pilate says to him, what is truth? And he doesn't listen for the answer, and he walks out. Well, after that scene, he sends him away to Herod to be judged because he's Galilean.

He's like, oh, my goodness, I can get out of this situation by not having to deal with it. There's this scene after Jesus leaves where Pilate sits down, and he's disturbed. He's disturbed because I think he senses his own hypocrisy in the scene, and his wife, Claudia, walks up, and he says to her, he asks her the same question he asked Jesus, because he asked Jesus, what is truth? And he walked out, but now he's contemplative, and he asks Claudia, what is truth, Claudia? Do you know it?

Do you understand it when you hear it? And she says, of course I do. And he goes further and says, what is it? How do you know it?

Can you tell me? And she says, if you will not hear the truth, no one can tell you. And then he stands up. He's indignant now. His truth? Want to know what my truth is, Claudia?

My truth is this. I have been putting down rebellions in this rotten outpost now for 11 years. If I condemn this man, his followers may start an uprising. If I don't condemn this man, Caiaphas will start an uprising. Either way, there will be bloodshed.

And Caesar has warned me, warned me twice, Claudia, that the next time there's an uprising, it will be me on that cross. That is my truth. He used the word truth a whole lot of times there, but he never actually talked about it. He talked about the consequences of truth. And you see how powerful this can be when there are negative consequences to accepting the truth and embracing the truth?

The consequences are so powerful that you actually mistake the consequences for the truth. They're not the same. When you think about this, you think about the moon. What is the moon? The moon is this cold dead rock. Look at this cold dead rock, and there are times when it moves in front of the sun and it blots it out completely.

And why? Because it's so much closer to us than our sun. And so this cold dead rock blocks out the glorious radiance of the star that gives us life. I think the cost of truth and the fear of shame is this cold dead rock that we hold so close to us that it blocks out the glorious sun God has provided for us as well.

I think what we can do as Christians is find a way to remove the barrier or at least get around it and show them the beauty of the sun that we follow and we love. You see, Pilate wasn't a skeptic. Pilate was a cynic. A skeptic is somebody who won't believe until there's enough evidence. A cynic is someone who won't believe even when there is. And because of the consequences, people can go from skeptic to cynic. We need to show them what truth is worth even as we show them what truth costs.

How do you do that? A couple of quick things I want to go through and then I want to finish is the first thing you have to do in order to get there is to ask open-ended questions about why we're having the conversation in the first place. If you ask an open-ended question and you point out the consequences of truth, you get it out in the open.

I mean, so many times I've often asked this question. Let's say for a moment I could actually prove to you that Jesus is who He said He was and that He is the Son of God, takes away the sins of the world. What would happen next?

And you actually believed it. What would happen next? And then just be quiet. Let them fill in the blanks because oftentimes they'll recognize, even if they kind of skirt around the issue, they're beginning to recognize within themselves it's not going to be a party thrown for me when I become a Christian. Maybe all my atheist friends or all my Muslim friends or my Hindu family, whatever it might be, they might all reject me.

I might lose all sorts of influence. Who knows what's going to happen? Let them fill in the blanks so you ask an open-ended question. I remember walking into the hospital room of a Muslim man. Nicole and I were there and I think I walked in without you because, you know, he's obviously a man who didn't want to necessarily be embarrassed in the hospital gown in front of a woman.

A friend of ours had asked me to come and speak to him because there was a bit of a language barrier and she had answered all his questions as she could but he had very deep questions as well. So I walk into the room and there he is, this guy with all these tubes and whatever sticking out of various places and he was sick, very sick at the hospital and he stood up, typical Middle Eastern fashion. He stands up to welcome me to his hospital room. I'm like, Ammo, sit down.

Ammo means uncle and you call someone who's older than you, something like that, out of respect. Please sit down, please sit down. And he sat down and I noticed something immediately. There was no food in the place, which is unusual for Arabs to have no food around them because family smuggles the contraband into the hospital. So that told me something. I already knew something.

This guy was probably alone in the country. So he says, I heard you were a Christian, you used to be a Muslim, you can answer my questions. I'm like, okay, we'll find out. So we have this conversation and there's a lot of barriers.

He wasn't really being affected by anything. And I gave him, you know, from Augustine to Zwingli, I gave him everything I knew. And he was nodding very politely and asking questions, but there was a stony mask on him. And then I was thinking about the barriers and I noticed the empty room and I said, so how's your family?

Tell me about your family. And that's when he said, you know, his, I think he was divorced and his children were coming from overseas to come see him because he was a grave, he was very, very serious procedure. And he softened up. And I said, can I ask you a question?

If you became a Christian, if you believed this, what would happen? This was his words. And he, a tear left his eye. And he said, if I became a Christian, I would die alone in this country. I said, I can understand that.

I understand what it's like, but I can tell you it's worth it. None of the evidence I had given him had yet cracked the stony mask that was over his face. It was this understanding of the shame he was going to bear that led him to say, hey, you brought an Arabic Bible with you.

Can I keep it? That's what did it. I can tell you countless other stories of people from this side of the world for whom if you understand what they're going to bear, you can actually make an impact and make a difference. So the first thing is ask an open ended question. The second thing is do the very hardest thing at sometimes is just to listen. Just listen. I'm Lebanese. Listening is not our strong suit.

You know, there's a phrase is that a Lebanese can sell sand to a Saudi and we're talkers and we're salespeople. So it's always hard for me to listen, but I found that some of the most deep evangelistic encounters I've ever had have come when I've said the very least I could say. People oftentimes will evangelize themselves if you just listen. So ask, listen, and then third is commit.

Commit to sticking by them. It's not called the great suggestion. It's called the great commission. You know why it's called the great commission?

Because you're being committed to a process that takes time. So the young man I had spoken to who talked about the fear of his father not being proud of him, Phoebe and Chris have spent time with the young man. They've committed to walking the journey with him. I'm still engaged with him over WhatsApp and other devices as I can be, but they're living there in life with him and they spend so much time.

He calls them uncle and auntie. He tells me how much their relationship has meant. Thank you so much for doing that.

You guys have done such a service in following the great commission and touching this young man. I can tell you over and over again it's so important to commit. So ask, listen, commit because the cost will come out. They will reveal it to you at some point and then you can really deal with it.

But then the question becomes this. The cost has been revealed. They're thinking, okay, I understand that the cost of the fear of shame and all these things is a barrier to my belief, but I might be willing to pay it if you can tell me it's worth it. How can you tell me it's worth it? So you have to expose the cost while showing them that it's worth paying.

And what is it worth paying? What are the things? I think one of the most important things, one of the first things I think about is the blessing that comes from suffering for the sake of the Lord. The blessings that come. I know it sounds paradoxical, especially in a country or in a world, a Western world where things like suffering are considered curses or something like that because you're not doing well or whatever it might be. In a world of affluence, suffering sounds like the thing you should avoid.

But the reality is it's something you can embrace because it does become its own blessing. You see that in the same chapter as those who were feared of being cast out of the synagogue and they wanted the glory that comes from men rather than the glory that comes from God. In other words, they didn't want to be shamed and they wanted to be honored. In that same chapter, John says in verse 26, if anyone serves me, he has Jesus saying this, if anyone serves me, he must follow me. And where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the father will honor him. So when you bear the shame, the earthly shame, you do receive the heavenly honor. It is inevitable.

The question is, do you believe it? So I want to show you something. An image.

If we can put it on the screens, this is familiar. All too familiar. These are men, they're kneeling heads down and they bore the price of belief. What stands out to you about this photo immediately?

Who do you see first? The men who are brightly adorned. I know those are prison outfits, but they're bright orange. They stand out.

It's like a light. And they're standing in front of men who are literally robed in darkness. God paints his masterpieces, his pictures, sometimes in a brush we can't understand.

Not with mere paint, but with people and their experiences. And these men were told that if you just renounce Jesus, you'll be spared. But you know what they said as they were dying?

They said, which is the Arabic word for Jesus. They cried out to the Lord. And they could have easily just said something to avoid the death, but they didn't. They willingly endured it. You don't remember the guys behind, the guys who were masked.

You remember the people in front. This gives something of a new meaning to me, of a verse of scripture we often talk about and we use it and it's fine to use it in our everyday contexts. When you look at Philippians 4.13, I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yes, I can ace that exam.

Yes, I can get that job or find a job or I can save my marriage or whatever it might be. But you know what we have a hard time with? Doing all things even when the happy ending is not going to come. And those men were able to do all things including face their death and bear the shame and all these things because of the one who strengthens them. There was an executioner from a country I'll leave unnamed who was talking about the way in which on public executions, even the toughest and most hardened criminals, when you go to get them from their cell and walk them out to the plank where they're going to have lose their heads, the toughest guys, their knees melt. And his words were, their strength drains away. These men's strengths never drained away because their strength wasn't based on them. It was based on Christ who strengthened them. I think the first blessing is that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. And the next one is that he removes the shame and restores honor.

Time runs short so I'll just give you a quick illustration and make a comparison here and then we have to bring it to a close here. But I think of Ann Darwin, the story of Ann Darwin, you know her husband was this well off guy and he made some bad investments and they were losing money left right and center. So her husband creates this scheme. He says we'll go on a boating trip and then you'll claim that I was lost at sea and you'll collect a life insurance.

Meanwhile we'll go meet at a private place we have, I think it was in Guatemala or whatever it might be, and we'll live happily there. Now they have two kids and they had to lie to their two kids. So John Darwin, her husband, told her to lie about this even to her kids. So she says he was lost at sea, she collects the insurance money but the insurance company doesn't really quite believe it and neither do the authorities.

And then suddenly John Darwin is spotted somewhere. He's spotted somewhere and now the whole thing is exposed as a lie. The worst thing wasn't all the statements she was being called like a liar and a fraudster and all these things. All those things were true and all those things were hurtful to her as she was trying to, you know, under the spell of her very abusive husband. The thing that bothered her the most was that her children had rejected her and she said that the worst label, the most shameful label wasn't criminal or fraudster, it was bad mother. And then there's reconciliation. The kids come back and say we want to have a relationship and she embraces her faith once again and there's healing. Is it perfect?

No, but there's healing once again. What a contrast but a similarity between my friend who feared his father's shame. He wanted his father's approval and he was afraid of the shame that it was going to bring.

She wanted her children's approval and was devastated by the shame that that brought. It's an interesting inversion but it does show you something. This white western woman was so afraid of the shame and needed it absolved and yet this eastern man also was afraid of the shame and needed that resolved as well. It proves the universality of an honor shame culture and Jesus speaks to it directly. The Bible speaks to it directly. Psalm 25 verses two to three. You can see it right there.

It's as if God anticipated that we would merge our two cultures together before we even had these two cultures. He says, David says, oh my God and you I trust. Let me not be put to shame. Let not my enemies exalt over me.

Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame. And then just a few verses later, he says, for your name's sake, oh Lord, pardon my guilt for it is great. He pardons our guilt which removes our shame. We are declared innocent because God is honored. Honor, shame, guilt, all brought together.

The fact that a single book is this multilingual I think is at least some evidence of its divinity. So I remember this as well and I'll just come to a close with my own, if I can make it personal for a moment, the shame that I feared. You've probably heard the story about how I was sitting at a desk with the evidence piled high as my eye for Islam and piled high as my eye for Christianity. And I found this so compelling, intellectually compelling that I could not deny its truth, but I couldn't embrace it as true as well. And then I was asking God why, why, why? And then my dad walked by and he smiled at me.

And I realized that that's what it was. I could not bear the shame of hurting my own father this much. Then I realized that it's the one God himself who bears so much for me. How could I not want to embrace a God who bears so much for me? He is the great God, the greatest possible being. As I said before, the one who brought me to himself because he's so great.

Why? Because he bears the shame for me and removes it from me. My favorite hymn writer, Isaac Watts, the Lord is just and kind. The meek shall learn his ways and every humble sinner find the methods of his grace for his own goodness sake. He saves my soul from shame.

He pardons though my guilt be great through my redeemer's name. That's the God who bridges both. How could I not embrace a God like that? How can you not embrace that God? So we come to the conclusion of the story in John chapter 9.

Jesus' honor shame radar is going off. He has demands been cast out. The young man's been cast out and Jesus comes back to him and he says to him, do you believe in the son of man? And he answered, and who is he sir that I may believe in him? Jesus said to him, you have seen him. It is he who is speaking to you.

He said, Lord, I believe and he worshiped him. Jesus said for judgment I came into this world that those who do not see may see and those who see may become blind. Pharisees don't like this. They're overhearing this and they feel that they're being shamed and they challenge him and they say, are you saying we're blind? He says, if you were blind, you would have no guilt. But now that you say, we see your guilt remains.

They shamed this young man and the guilt was on them. And then Jesus says, you are included in the kingdom of God. You may be cast out of the synagogue, but you're included in the kingdom of God. In other words, the cheap cultural honor bestowed by hypocritical men is replaced by the incalculable heavenly honor that is bestowed by the son of man.

Inclusion. The young man I was telling you about is a believer now. He follows the Lord.

I texted him two days ago just to make sure I could share this story with you. And he said this, absolutely, whatever brings honor, interesting, and glory to God, you may share. And he says, when I intentionally delayed in accepting Christ because of the fear, my father appeared in my dream and said, you need to follow the truth even if it costs your family. He's liberated no longer a prisoner, no longer a prisoner because he has hope and hope does not put him to shame as Romans 5 says. I think of Emily Bronte's poem, The Prisoner, where Emily Bronte has this prisoner who is imprisoned and is a mocker and a jailer and they make fun of her. And as she realizes her plight and she realizes the real prison isn't the walls she's in, it's the prison of the shame she's feeling and she suddenly realizes and she suddenly liberated from it, the mocker says these words in the poem. She ceased to speak and we on answering turned to go.

We had no further power to work the captive woe. Her cheek, her gleaming eye revealed that man had given a sentence unapproved and overruled by heaven. Our cultural methods put a sentence on us and it silences us from sharing the truth and it silences us from accepting the truth but it is a sentence unapproved and overruled by heaven. If you're stilted in this fear of what might come because you share the truth boldly, be liberated.

I hope you're liberated from it. I know it's going to be tough but you will receive the honor from God and if you're someone who hasn't accepted the truth because you're worried about what the consequences might be, just remember the chief consequence of accepting the truth is that you get to know the son of God. What more can anyone ask for? I pray that you know him. Let's pray. Father, I'm so grateful that you bridged the chasm of centuries with a scripture that is so consistent and so beautifully woven together where we wash and we come and we're cleaned and our shame is removed, that you've bridged east and west and you've bridged centuries and you've bridged hearts and minds. May you set aside our fears. Help us to identify with your son and see the beauty of his sacrifice as something worth sharing and worth embracing. I pray these things in the name of your son was the ultimate shame bearer and shame remover.

Amen. That concludes this message from RZIM speaker and author Abdu Murray. You can also order a copy of this message, titled Evangelism in an Honor and Shame Culture, when you call 1-800-448-6766 or order online at Our website is also a great place to find more content from Abdu and the rest of the RZIM team will see upcoming events being held around the globe. That web address again is or for those in Canada. Let My People Think is a listener-supported radio ministry and is furnished by RZIM in Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-10 10:19:29 / 2024-03-10 10:30:17 / 11

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