Register Now for The Patronage Symposium

Jackson Wu says patronage is “the most overlooked aspect of honor-shame cultures.” I believe patronage is also the most frustrating aspect of cross-cultural relationships. In other words, patronage is an issue we must address.

In recent decades secular anthropologists and biblical scholars have analyzed the dynamics of patronage in Majority World cultures. But regrettably, missiologists and missionaries continue to overlook this pivotal reality.  

For this reason, we are hosting The Patronage Symposium October 2018 in Beirut, Lebanon. This meeting will gather leading thinkers and practitioners from diverse contexts to develop a multi-disciplinary, biblical, and relevant missiology regarding patronage. To facilitate meaningful interaction, the gathering will be limited to ~40 people, so be sure to register here for an invitation.  

By the quality and quantity of people who have already registered for an invitation, The Patronage Symposium promises to be an excellent event. For more information visit

Do you know someone who should (or would like to) participate in this event? Please forward this to them.  



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INFOGRAPHIC: How Cultures Clash (B/W version)

One of the most popular posts here at is the infographic “Culture Vantage Points: How West and East (Mis)Perceive Each Other’s Cultural Values.” 

Since many people use it as a teaching resource, I developed this black/white version that is easier to print and distribute. (You may share freely, no permission required). Download the JPG file here. The color version of this infographic and complete explanation are available at

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Top 10 Honor-Shame Posts of 2017

Here are the top blogposts from for 2017.


10. Can You Shame God?

9. Exposing the Truth about Honor & Shame: 4 Dimensions

8. Guilt, Shame & Fear in Secular Research

7. A Western Bias: “Honor-Shame Cultures are Violent”

6. Resources from the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference

5. Raising Support in HS Cultures: 5 Tips

4. Teaching in HS Contexts: 5 Must-Knows

3. The Rise of Shame in America

2. The Meaning of Romans 3:23

1. The Problem of “Grace” in English

Also check out the Top 10 posts of 20162015, and 2014.

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Uncovering the Power of Shame

Guest Samuel Albert is Editor in Chief of

The Bible has a whole vocabulary to do with shame, reproach and disgrace. There are over 10 Hebrew words that translate these words into English, but they have been almost evacuated of meaning. This means that we have to read the texts about shame in the Old Testament carefully, taking account both of their original social context and of our own. The key ideas with regard to shame are disgrace and exposure. Disgrace is the loss of approval, of status and of respect. For example, the ways in which the Nazis treated their concentration camp victims were designed to disgrace them and to deny their humanity. Mockery and ridicule are calculated to demonstrate that the victim is worthless.

However, shame is also what we feel when we are exposed. Some things were not meant for public display. Smedes argues that privacy is essential to our mystery, sacredness and identity as human beings. Our society, with its obsession with eroticism and its addiction to pornography, has lost its sense of shame just as it has lost its bearings with regard to guilt. The ideas of disgrace and exposure combine in the biblical metaphor for shame, which is the lifting of a woman’s skirts or the cutting of a man’s clothing, especially so as to expose private parts. Such was the utter disgrace that Jesus endured when crucified naked on a Roman cross. He endured the shame of the cross and was honored by God raising Him from the dead and exalting Him.

Shame(less) Today

Today, matters which were regarded by former ages as shameful and to be ‘hushed up’ are now staple fodder for journalists. It is exposure for exposure’s sake, whether or not it is in the public interest and serves the common good. While it is trite to criticise the media for their prurience, if gossip did not sell, it wouldn’t be printed. If Shameless did not attract an audience measured in the millions, it would not have been recommissioned for a third series. Fallen human nature is curious for knowledge of damaging things about other people. This both panders to our desire to know secrets and gives us the luxury of looking down on others who have been caught acting in such reprehensible ways. Christians ought to be conspicuously different in this regard. We should be more discerning about what we read and listen to. We should be prepared to ask the question: what practical business do I have in knowing this about that person? The social elements in shame of disgrace and exposure are the driving force behind ASBOs (Anti-Social Behavior Orders) which are the government’s current weapon of choice in the fight against petty crime. But such orders presuppose the existence of a moral community to which the perpetrators of antisocial behavior are answerable. The very legalism of the mechanism and anti-relational aspects of the criminal justice system militate against their effectiveness.

In a society with a stronger shared morality and better relationships such shameful/dishonorable behavior, particularly among young people, would be dealt with through more informal mechanisms. There would be relational means of positively reinforcing what is honorable and negatively reinforcing what is shameful. The decay of these ‘unofficial’ mechanisms requires less efficient substitutes in the form of increased use of contracts (such as those recently proposed for council tenants), more law, and more police. Shame can be destructive, if it leads to feelings of worthlessness and if it is a stigma which can never be lifted. What is the Christian alternative?

Beyond Shame: Confession, Repentance And Restoration

The Bible teaches that one of the primeval forms of sin is pride. Appeals to honor can disguise pride and self-reliance. Honor can become a means by which human beings seek to establish their identity on the basis of how they are seen through the eyes of others; the Christian knows that their identity is given to them by God. Although Christians are careful and charitable with regard to the honor of others, Christians are able to hold lightly to their own honor because they find their identity, their sense of self-worth, in God. Instead of depending on the approbation of the social groups to which they belong, Christians can be secure in their identity as people deliberately and uniquely created by God and loved by God. Our identity is given to us by God not by the media, nor by the public, nor even by our close personal relationships.

Posted in Bible, Culture, ethics, Shame, Spirituality Tagged with: , ,

The Patronage Symposium (Oct 2018)

Please considering joining us at the:

Patron-client relationships were foundational in the world of Scripture. Plus, the dynamics of status, benefaction, generosity, reciprocity, loyalty and gratitude remain foundational in societies today. Yet the realities of patronage remain ignored in theological and missional conversations.

This symposium will gather leading thinkers and practitioners from diverse contexts to develop a multi-disciplinary, biblical, and relevant missiology regarding patronage. The format will feature presentations followed by group interactions for beneficial outcomes.

Participants and Presenters:

The following presenters have verbally committed to participating in The Patronage Symposium. If you are interested in presenting a workshop, please complete this form


Dr. Martin Accad, Director of The Institute of Middle East Studies and former Academic Dean of ABTS 
Dr. David deSilva, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Ashland Theological Seminary (*will present through videoconferencing)
Dr. Randolph Richards, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Palm Beach Atlantic University
Dr. Jackson Wu, Professor of Theology in East Asia


Jayson Georges, founding editor of




The all-inclusive cost of $299 includes all conference fees, 3 nights lodging, and all meals at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, plus airport shuttle. All participants must arrange and pay for their own travel to Beirut, Lebanon. 


Participants should plan to arrive on Oct 2 and depart after 3pm on Oct 5. 

Day 1 (Oct 3, all day): Listening –This day will focus on hearing local paradigms and taxonomies for patronage. Dr. Martin Accad will moderate the morning discussion with Arab leaders about patronage. The afternoon session will present models of patronage in other global contexts (i.e., African, Asian, Latin), then conclude with Dr. deSilva’s presentation on patronage in the early church community. 

Day 2 (Oct 4, all day): Reflecting — How can Christians embody and proclaim the gospel in patron-client contexts? The second day will focus on theological and missional issues related to patronage, especially practical issues such as business development, leadership training, church relations, etc. This day will feature seven workshop presentations along with collaborative discussions.

Day 3 (Oct 5, until lunch): Synthesizing — The final morning session will synthesize the symposium and develop actions points for further development.  


To enable deeper interactions, the symposium will be limited to ~40 participants. To request an invitation, complete this short application form by Janurary 15, 2018. For further information, email

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Esther 1 (HSP)

Here is an honor-shame paraphrase of Esther, chapter 1. This is excerpted from the new book Esther: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase, available as Kindle or PDF for $2.99.

A long time ago, the king of Persia was a man named Ahasuerus. His glorious kingdom included 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. (verses 1–2) 

In the third year of his reign the king hosted a royal banquet for all his officials—the governors, ministers, and generals. The celebration was epic. For 180 days king Ahasuerus paraded his magnificence before everyone. His glory and honor were on full display. Everyone awed at the king’s splendor and majesty. (34) 

After the six-month celebration for his officials, king Ahasuerus hosted another grand banquet for all the people in the capital of Susa. Everyone, from government officials to rural peasants, feasted in the king’s palace for seven full days. The spectacular event displayed all the king’s splendor: white curtains, blue wall hangings, purple linens, silver rings, marble pillars, and more. The people sat on gold couches, danced on pearl mosaics, and drank from golden goblets. At the king’s order people ate mounds of fancy food and drank barrels of exotic wine. The opulence reflected the king’s glory. He generously treated everyone like royalty, and they praised his benevolence. At the same time, Queen Vashti hosted another royal banquet for all the women of Susa. There was no end to the king’s extravagant generosity towards all his subjects. He sat proudly atop the hierarchy of honor. (5–9) 

By the seventh day of feasting, the king was reveling in his glory. So he summoned Queen Vashti into his presence to display her royal beauty for all the people to admire. This made Queen Vashti feel degraded like a concubine, so she disobeyed the king and refused to come. Her public defiance insulted and infuriated the king. He completely lost face before all of his guests. (10–12) 

The king gathered seven loyal advisers from his inner council, asking, “The queen has publicly defied my order. According to the laws of Persia, what is the consequence of not honoring the king?” (13–15) 

One advisor said to the king, “The queen’s blatant disrespect not only wronged you, the king, but it wronged all Persian leaders. All the women will hear about Vasthi’s refusal to honor you and so likewise dishonor their own husbands. Her contempt threatens the entire social order of Persia. All the wives will despise their husbands, who are your officials. There will be no end to the disrespect and chaos in your kingdom. This will diminish your royal authority and undermine the social order. As the king wishes, you may issue a decree to expel Vashti forever from your presence. Then you can give her royal position to a virtuous woman who will respect you. When such a decree is announced throughout your kingdom, all the women will know their place and honor their husbands.” (16–20) 

The king liked this proposal to reassert his authority and preserve the honor of his officials. He issued royal letters to all the provinces declaring that every man be honored as the head of his household. This would ensure the stature of King Ahasuerus and his administration. (21–22) 

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Esther: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase (new book)

The second title—Esther—in the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series is now available. Esther: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase costs $2.99 on Kindle and PDF.

Readers often misinterpret Scripture for a simple reason—our culture is very different from the ancient cultures of the Bible. For example, Westerners are often “blind” to the social dynamics of honor and shame.

The Honor-Shame Paraphrase helps you understand the Bible according to its original cultural context. We highlight social nuances to unlock the meaning of Scripture in insightful and accessible ways. This series is ideal for personal devotions, teaching preparation, ministry training, Bible studies, and life groups.

This paraphrase of Esther unlocks the subtle plot dynamics of this intriguing and theologically rich narrative. Thanks to providential circumstances, Jewish exiles in Persia escape complete humiliation and gain an honorable status. The socio-historical introduction explains key honor-shame motifs such as feasts, social hierarchy, and status in the story of Esther.

Buy now for just $2.99 on Kindle or PDF. You can click here to request a free review (for Amazon review, a journal, your blog, etc.) or exam (for classroom purposes) copy. 


“This lively and engaging paraphrase of Esther, like all the biblical paraphrases in this series, seeks to illuminate and express key implicit cultural assumptions shaping biblical discourse. Sumptuous food and fabulous feasting, role violations and status reversals, male honoring and female defiance, enemy plotting and counter-cultural female heroics are all displayed here as strands of a fascinating story of honor denied and honor bestowed.”
Dr. John H. Elliott, Professor Emeritus, University of San Francisco, author of 1 Peter, Anchor Bible Commentary

“The Honor-Shame Paraphrase series gives us a fresh look at an ancient perspective. As a paraphrase, each book nicely serves as a middle ground between a commentary and a translation. Accordingly, they aptly highlight diverse and subtle ways that honor and shame influence the biblical writers. One easily sees the care given to remain biblically faithful and culturally meaningful. I commend this series both as a useful tool for personal study and public ministry.”
Dr. Jackson Wu, professor to Chinese pastors, author of Saving God’s Face

“Applying shame and honor as ever-present realities in the ancient world, Jayson Georges powerfully accents the cultural values behind the words that would otherwise seem flavorless. His paraphrasing penetrates deeply into the intentions of the heart that often lay hidden from readers. We are exposed to life as it was lived, feelings as they were felt and hidden motives as they were brought to light. The biblical text breathes afresh with meaning.”
Dr. Duane H. Elmer, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, author of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

“In a rapidly globalizing world cultural differences are confronting us daily. Not only have these cultural differences exposed a cultural bias in our daily lives, but they have also exposed the significant role culture plays in our approach to the Bible. The Honor-Shame Paraphrase provides a great resource that helps people understand how the Bible would have been understood in the Ancient Near East. I am both thankful and excited to recommend a resource that will help us understand the Bible.”
Spencer MacCuish, President, Eternity Bible College


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The Reformation: 3 Honor-Shame Facts

 The dynamics of honor and shame influenced the events of the Reformation, especially in the early years. This post sheds light on the social context surrounding the theological controversies that shook the Western world 500 years ago. 

1. The German Motive for Reform

Luther’s 95 Theses and subsequent writings spread like wildfire in Germany. Luther garnered quite a following from his fellow Germans. For example, his journey to the Diet of Worms (1521) was celebrated by great fanfare in one town after another. However, the strong support Luther received was largely for political reasons.  

The people of Germany felt plundered and disrespected by the Pope. In an era when politics and religion were inseparable, Luther’s writings fueled a national independence movement. The Germans were eager to throw off the oppressive and degrading shackles of their Italian overlords from Rome. 

Even at the Diet of Worms when Luther defended his theology, he blatantly appealed to these nationalistic sentiments. “Property and possessions, especially in this illustrious nation of Germany, have been devoured by an unbelievable tyranny! Should I recant at this point, I would open the door to more tyranny and impiety.”  

Germans found Luther to be their champion standing against the tyranny of Rome. He would deliver them from the shameful oppression and restore their status. In this German political context,  Martin Luther and his theology found sanctuary.   

2. The Catholic Response

Rome’s strategy against Luther was classic name-and-shame. Rome tried many tactics to squash Luther’s voice and put out the flames of open revolt against Rome’s authority. For example, representatives of Rome claimed that Luther was conceived when the devil raped his mother in an outhouse. Their smear campaign against the German monk reflected a crude political campaign more than a theology debate. Here is the edict issued against Luther after his famous trial at the Diet of Worms. Note language for shaming Luther and his community.  

“This devil in the habit of a monk has brought together ancient errors into one stinking puddle and has invented new ones. … He lives the life of a beast…. Luther is to be regarded as a convicted heretic. When the time is up, no one is to harbor him. His followers are to be condemned. His books are to be eradicated from the memory of man.”   

3. Luther’s Response

 Martin Luther spared no derision against the Pope. He referred to Rome as “Babylon” and the “anti-Christ,” mostly because the Roman church claimed she herself (not Christ) was the agent of salvation. However, even several years into the controversy Luther maintained a high degree of respect for Rome and desired church unity. In a letter drafted for Pope Leo in January 1519, Luther writes:

“The honorable Sir Charles, chamber secretary to Your Holiness, … very harshly accused me in the name of Your Holiness of lacking respect for and being rash toward the Roman church and Your Holiness, and demanded satisfaction for this. Hearing this, I was deeply grieved that my most loyal service has had such an unhappy outcome and that what I had undertaken–to guard the honor of the Roman church–had resulted in disgrace. … 

I cannot under any circumstances recant anything if I want to honor the Roman church–and this has to be to my primary concern. Such a recanting would accomplish nothing but to defile the Roman church more and more and bring it into the mouths of the people as something that should be accused. See, Father, those whom I have opposed have inflicted this injury and virtual ignominy on the Roman church among us. With their most insipid sermons, preached in the name of Your Holiness, they have cultivated only the most shameful avarice.” 

In this letter, Luther shows a keen sensitivity to the underlying problem of the controversy he instigated—the apparent disgrace of the Roman church. But in a masterful way, Luther attempts to reframe the narrative—he only seeks to bring honor to the Roman church, and the true source of shame is the envoys sent from Rome to oppose Luther.   


Reformation theology arose in a particular social context shaped by honor-shame dynamics in key ways. To understand the theology of the Reformation, we must take note of the context of the Reformation. 

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The Gospel in 2 Poems

Christian Burkhardt is a pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. His two poems aim to awaken our “Longing to Belong” and direct us on how to be fully satisfied by seeking God’s face, as we were “Made for Glory.”


Longing to Belong

What if we are more than the thoughts inside our heads?
More than independent agents, as the philosophers have said

What if we can’t disconnect so easily from the past?
What if the failures of our fathers cause shame and pain that lasts?

            Our slates weren’t blank when we stepped onto the stage
            And our own missteps and errors have spilled ink across our page

What if that is why we try so hard to recreate
a sparkling self-image from the old one that we hate?

What if that is why our social scenes are apt to change?
We love our individuality, but shun those we find strange.

            We’re longing to belong, terrified of being known
            For if they really got to know us, our careful cover would be blown

            We were made for deep connection, but we can’t leave the shallow end
            To brave the deeper waters to find a truer friend

So we settle for the superficial, for underneath that thin veneer
We’re all quietly wondering what in the world we’re doing here.

What if our attempts to cover up our faults
Are the echo of a longing for a glory that was lost?


Made for Glory

We were made for glory by a Master hand
Lifted up from the simple sand
Radiant, unashamed
In the grace of a Father who called us by name

We were made for glory, but our heads were turned
By a fork-tongued liar, who promised we would learn
Deeper truths, reach higher heights, if we struck out on our own
We took the bait and turned our backs on the goodness God had shown

We turned from glory to seek our own
Our eyes opened, but our radiance gone
What a fall from glory! What a fall from grace!
Sent from God’s presence, hidden from his face

            Wandering alone
            No family, name, or home
            Longing to belong
            Terrified of being known

He came from glory, from the Father’s side
The Prince of Heaven, come for his bride
But we turned our faces from him, for we found that in his light
Our masks were insufficient to keep our shame from sight

            He came with such a spark
            But we’d grown accustomed to the dark
            Away, away, we cast him aside
            The King of Glory, crucified

Yet he was raised in glory and seated at God’s right!
His obedience to death was precious in God’s sight!
And from his honored position, King Jesus now declares
That He has made a way, his glory now to share

We were made for glory, and we can again
Know the honor of being called God’s friend
But we cannot serve two masters, for it is impossible
To seek the honor come from God, and still try to seek our own

            Renounce false honor claims! Pledge allegiance to the King!
            And you will share the glory of the kingdom He will bring
            Not longing, but belonging; adopted by the Lord
            You’ll see his face and bear his name; home forevermore.

Posted in Relationships, salvation, Spirituality, Theology Tagged with: , ,

The Meaning of Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

That is how most English Bibles translate Romans 3:23. Western Christianity typically interprets these words as, Every individual person has done something wrong and not lived up to God’s perfect moral standard. This statement may be theologically true, though not true to Paul’s intention. The individualistic and moralistic meaning that most Westerners assume was not Paul’s main point here.

When you consider the verse’s various contexts—historical (e.g., Jew-Gentile tensions, imperial Rome), cultural (e.g., collectivistic, honor-shame), and rhetorical (e.g., the preceding chapters defining sin as dishonor, the preceding verse critiquing ethnic privilege)— a different meaning emerges.

Here is an honor-shame paraphrase of Romans 3:23 that captures the intent and implications of Paul’s sentence: “And the reason [that God does not privilege one ethnic group over another] is because all peoples, both Jews and Gentiles, have become dishonorable since they have failed to properly honor God.” Here is an explanation. Read more ›

Posted in Bible, Honor, NT, Shame, Theology Tagged with: , , , , ,

More Conference Resources

All the resources from the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference are now available online. This includes edited videos and presenter materials from all the workshops.

New Videos

Since first announcing the videos, we have added these four presentations to the YouTube playlist

1.Dr. David deSilva: “Reciprocity and Patronage in the NT: What does it Mean for the Gospel Today?”

2. Dr. Steve Hawthorne: “The Honor and Glory of Jesus Christ— Heart of the Gospel and Mission of God”

3. Dr. Tom Steffen: “A Clothesline Theology”

4. Rev. Martin Munyao, David Tarus: “Tribalism and Identity: Africa’s Identity Theology”

Presenter Materials

Many presenters have kindly agreed to make their PowerPoint/Keynote presentations and workshop notes publicly available. All of these resources are in this Dropbox folder. You can download, view and use these resources as you please in your ministry and teaching. When using these resources, please do cite them as you would any published resource.

Posted in Resources, Theology Tagged with: ,

The Problem of “Grace” in English Bibles

All Bible translations face a problem—the cultural gap between the Bible and contemporary readers. English words evoke Western assumptions and values that are unlike those of biblical writers.

The word “grace” (Greek: charis) is a good example of this problem of cross-cultural interpretation. To understand “grace,” we must understand patronage, but even that can be difficult for Westerners because of cultural reasons.


In biblical times, patronage was a dominant social-economic system for managing relationships and resources. The cultural assumptions of patron-client relationships pervade NT texts. But, the English language fails to evoke those nuances of patronage in the Bible. The reason is because patron-client relationships are hardly present in the English-speaking cultures; the English language is not naturally used in contexts of patronage. And since words derive their meaning from social contexts, English words inadequately express the dynamics of patronage.

Discussing patronage in English is like using a tribal language in Papua New Guinea to explain nanotechnology—the words are not meant for such a task. Yes, there are terms in English like patron, client, benefactor. But those academic terms do not evoke the moral obligations of generosity, gratitude, or reciprocity that define patron-client relationships.

Read more ›

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Africa Study Bible: “Honour & Respect”

The new Africa Bible Study (NLT) illuminates the truth of Scripture with a unique, African perspective. This article “Honor and Respect” (p. 1283) explains the spiritual importance of social honour. 

Honour and Respect

What is the secret of a long life on earth? Is it a healthy diet, access to medical care, or a modern system of public safety and protection? An elderly man in Africa would give a very different answer—and so do the Scriptures. While remembering that a good diet and medical care are important, one of the secrets to a long life treasured by Africans is living a life of honour and respect.

An essential part of many initiation rites in Africa is the teaching of honour and respect. Traditionally in Africa, this was such an important virtue that any young man who was disrespectful or did not honour his elders could be subject to harsh punishment, including the ultimate penalty. A tradition of the Sara people in Chad was that a disrespectful youth would be condemned to be buried alive and must dig his grave with his own hands before entering it. Those responsible for his punishment sang and danced to the beat of drums as the disrespected parents watched.

God’s law, as given to the ancient Jews, also teaches honour with seriousness. “Anyone who dishonours father or mother must be put to death” (Exodus 21:17). Today, no Christian would be justified to physically harm another person like in this story or even in this Exodus law. As Christians, we no longer follow laws like this, but Jesus did stress the great importance of treating parents with honour when he was challenged by the religious leaders (Matthew 15:3-5).

When young people in Africa show respect and honour by obeying their parents, they receive promises of long life. A Sara elder will wet his hands with his spit, lay them on the young man, and bless him saying, “May your hair become completely white and may your eyes see your grandchildren’s hair become white.” Such traditions remind us of the teaching of God’s Word. The fifth commandment states, “Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3).

Does the practice of honour and respect apply only to our biological father and mother? Of course not! It also applies to our elders, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, spiritual leaders, and those in authority over us in government. When we do not treat others with honour and respect, we dishonour God and can bring shame to our parents (Proverbs 28:7). Paul advised his spiritual son Timothy to “never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father” (1 Timothy 5:1). The apostle Peter taught that “for the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed” (1 Peter 2:13-14).

But what do we do when our parents or leaders misuse their authority? Perhaps they even abuse us or others. Although we are not their judge, these parents or leaders sit under God’s judgement. While showing respect, we must also protect our- selves or others from abuse. Protecting someone from abuse is honouring to them and even to the abuser when done with respect and without bitterness. A person should not continue in the kind of relationship with a parent or elder that allows or encourages a pattern of abuse. Pastors and elders should work to protect any person who is being harmed, even taking the case to the authorities if needed.

Although Peter does not speak directly of an abusive husband, he does say that wives “must accept the authority of your husbands . . . even if some refuse to obey the Good News.” The husband might then “be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2). It is also instructive to read about how Peter and Paul both showed respect and truth to those who abused them (Acts 4:18-22; 5:26-31; 16:35-40; 19:35-41; 22:24-29; 23:1-5; 25:9-12). Our responsibility is to act with mature love in our treatment of others (1 Corinthians 13), even when they do wrong to us—but in a way that protects ourselves or others as people made in God’s image.

As Christians, we first owe honour to God. “If we live, it’s to honour the Lord” (Romans 14:8). Next, we are to practise honour and respect, first to our parents, then to others. Showing such honour does not require us to give all our financial wealth to those we honour; however, it does increase both our spiritual and physical wealth. When we honour our parents, God promises to reward us with a long life. Combined with our respect for God, “true humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honour, and long life” (Proverbs 22:4).

God’s Word and African wisdom teach us to live lives that show honour to others, regardless of whether we know them or not. We are wise in the Lord’s eyes and have understood one of life’s secrets when we have learned to “respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17). We are losing some of our traditional values. May God use each of us to teach the next generation of Africans how to respect their elders by the way we publicly respect and honour our elders.

Used by permission from Oasis International Ltd, copyright 2016. Visit for more information.

For resources about honor and shame in Africa, see


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Guilt, Shame, and Fear in Secular Research

When I wrote The 3D Gospel and developed in 2014, I thought that the concept of guilt/shame/fear cultures was unique to Christian missiology. But recently, I encountered a very similar cultural model by a secular psychologist.

Richard Shweder is a professor of cultural psychology at the University of Chicago. He researches the cross-cultural concepts of self and moral reasoning. In 2003 he co-authored an article “The ‘Big Three’ of Morality (Autonomy, Community, and Divinity) and the ‘Big Three’ Explanations of Suffering.” They analyzed hundreds of interviews from India and noticed three clusters of “moral themes”: autonomy, community, and divinity. Here is an explanation using Shweder’s own language.

Ethics of Autonomy (≈Guilt-Innocence)

The main concern in this ethical system is individual autonomy. We should not interfere with another person’s wants and preferences. The ethics of autonomy reasons in terms of harm, rights, and justice. Don’t infringe upon the rights of other people and do not harm anyone else. Westerners have even extended the idea of “rights” to many areas, e.g., education and health care. Even animals have rights.

In a rather prophetic word, Shweder et al. say about Americans: “We wish to be protected from every imaginable harm, protected from secondary cigarette smoke, protected from psychologically offensive work environments. … We have stretched the notions of rights, autonomy, and harm, even as we wonder nostalgically how we lost our sense of community and divinity” (p 142).

Ethics of Community (≈Shame-Honor)

This moral paradigm is about obligations to the community. People maintain roles and statuses in relation to other members of the group. An ethic of community prioritizes duty, hierarchy, and interdependence. There is a moral obligation to “take care of one’s own.” People rely upon the hierarchy to satisfy their needs—the powerful protect and provide, and subordinates respond with gratitude and loyalty. Life is interdependent. So if an action weakens someone connected with you, then it also weakens you. In this ethic, “personal identity is more closely associated with its statuses and relationships than with its individuality and distinctness” (p 145).

Ethics of Divinity (≈Fear-Power)

A sacred order pervades the entire world. A spiritual force permeates the social and natural world. Humans are always communicating with the realm of the divine world. So morality is following the sacred order of the world and maintaining the sacred traditions. The natural and the sacred are not different orders of reality; rather, the natural world expresses the spiritual world. Our actions directly affect the sacred order. “Persons communicate with the divine and the divine communicates with persons through actions in the world, whether special rituals, work, or ordinary domestic services.”

Below is their summary chart (click to make larger).

The Comparison

Shweder’s three categories (autonomy, community, and divinity) mirror my explanation of guilt, shame, and fear cultures, though with a slight difference. Shweder’s three “moral discourses” focus on the basis of personhood (whereas guilt/shame/fear focuses on moral emotions). The labels explain how cultures define the value and essence of human beings. The three options are: rights and freedoms, status and connection, or spiritual harmony and sacredness. Then by extension, cultures develop an appropriate moral system to protect and preserve their definition of “truly human.” I appreciate Schewer’s model because it highlights an important reality—morality is shaped by identity (as I’ve noted here and here). 

Schweder’s full article is available here. His moral paradigm was popularized in The Righteous Mind by Jonathon Haidt, who also developed an online survey that measures your moral orientation: the “Moral Foundations Questionnaire” at


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Shame and Guilt in Racial Reconciliation

The post is adapted from chapter #3 of  The Bridge to Racial Unity: Discussion Guide 2.0 from Be the Bridge ministries.

A personal awareness of racism and racial injustice can generate uncomfortable feelings of shame and guilt. In America’s individualistic and therapeutic culture, shame and guilt tend to be regarded with suspicion—or as tools for controlling others. Viewed this way, they can hinder the process of relational restoration. In the Bible, however, shame and guilt have redemptive potential. But our ability to appreciate such redemption requires a closer look at how culture shapes our responses to shame and guilt.

Our Cultural Responses

Western morality is based on individual guilt and innocence (for instance, a person who obeys the law is “good,” but one who breaks the law is “bad” and deserves to be punished). It reflects the assumption that the individual is the primary unit and source of identity, accountability, and status. For this reason, people from individualistic cultures struggle to grasp the concept of collective shame, or a morality based on communal honor. This is where individuals share responsibility in the preservation of a community’s integrity and reputation.

Communal honor exists somewhat in American culture. If your toddler pushes a kid at the park, for example, you apologize on his or her behalf. If a father makes a scene at a high-school football game in front of his daughter and her peers, she feels embarrassed. In general, however, when communal shame is aroused beyond the level of familial association, which frequently happens in conversations about racial inequality, it is rapidly countered with proclamations of individual innocence—“I didn’t do anything wrong! I’m not a racist!” The following story illustrates cultural differences in the way people handle collective shame and guilt.

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Videos from the Honor-Shame Conference

We are excited to announce that the videos from the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference are now available on this YouTube playlist

The plenary sessions and featured workshops are full-length videos (~1 hour). The majority of the workshops are short trailers (3–5 minutes) of the presenter’s main point. 

We are grateful for the opportunity to capture and share these significant contributions from our gathering in Chicago last month. The 28 videos will be on YouTube for public use, so feel free to share the word. 


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8 Tips for Doing “Honor-Shame Theology”

How can we develop an “honor-shame theology” for today? How might be better explain the gospel in honor-shame contexts? Here are 8 practical tips to help you better utilize honor-shame in global ministry.

This post summarizes part of my plenary talk at the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference. A full-length webinar video is available here.

1. Missions: From Evangelism to Discipleship.

Many Christian workers engage honor-shame for its evangelistic utility. Honor-shame most certainly does impact evangelism, but limiting its value to evangelism truncates our theology and undermines the important task of making disciples. Honor and shame transform our understanding of the gospel, from conversion message to discipleship life. As we understand the gospel rightly, honor-shame is not merely about cross-cultural communication, but a matter of ethics and kingdom living.  An honor-shame perspective enhances our gospel presentations by emphasizing the ethical and communal dimensions inherent to the gospel. So, use honor-shame to make disciples, not just more converts.

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New Infographics

In 2016 the ministry Global Mapping International released the missiographic “Culture’s Color, God’s Light,” which featured a global map of culture types (guilt, shame, and fear). The infographic has become GMI’s #2 most viewed infographic and has appeared in many resources. (In large part because they did an excellent job visualizing cultural dynamics!) 

Updated Map

I’m pleased to share that GMI has updated the map (see below) to include an additional 5,000 respondents (13,000 total) from Click here to read my original explanation and qualifications, which remain valid.

 Hi-res images of this map in PDF and PNG are available at MissioNexus’ website


There are now Spanish and Portuguese translations of the infographic at Missio Nexus’ website also. Both available for free to use and share with others.

Your Help with Data Visualization?

Over 20,000 around the world have taken The Culture Test, and ~500 new people take the test every month. My desire is to steward this data by making it available in a secure, accessible, and aesthetic manner for missions research and strategizing. This means developing an online map where people can interactively segment and analyze the anonymous data (with Tableau Public, DataSeed, or a similar program).

So, do you have skills in “interactive data visualization”? I would love to collaborate with you on this project. Send me an email at Thanks!


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6 Ways Honor and Shame Make Disciples (Not Converts)

Jackson Wu (Ph.D., SEBTS) teaches theology and missiology to Chinese leaders. He blogs at

Honor and shame are essential for being and making disciples. They are more than mere labels used to describe culture and improve cross-cultural communication.

To explain my meaning, I wrote an article last year called “Does the ‘Plan of Salvation’ Make Disciples: Why Honor and Shame are Essential for Christian Ministry.” An honor-shame lens exposes potential blind spots in discipleship that can result from traditional gospel presentations. After all, our initial view of the gospel has disproportionate influence on the trajectory of our Christian life.

Here are six practical implications for ministry. How can understanding honor and shame improve efforts to make disciples, not mere “converts”?

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The Meaning of “Faith”

The latest issue of the magazine Modern Reformation includes my article “Talking About Faith in Non-Western Contexts.” This article explains the biblical meaning of “faith” in terms of patron-client relationships and recent New Testament scholarship.

The opening paragraphs are included below, and Modern Reformation has kindly unlocked the full article for 30 days for the general public, so click here to access and read the full article.  

Many Western Christians have a sub-biblical understanding of faith. “Faith” has been reduced to a person’s religious beliefs. Faith has become the mere intellectual assent of an individual to a specific set of religious doctrines or dogmas. This view of faith is not only incomplete when compared to how the Bible speaks of faith, it also is difficult for non-Westerners to understand when they are presented with the claims of Christ by missionaries.

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