I went to a really good church service on Sunday night. It was looking at stories from Kurdistan. The theme of the service was about Honour and Shame. I began to appreciate more and more those who work in the region bringing a sense of God's love and forgiveness.
The people leading the service spoke about the plight of many people, particularly women in the Middle East. We heard of horrible acts of violence on young girls because they had fallen in love with the wrong person outside the tribe. They were murdered, mutilated and shunned by their fathers and their families. Within the Middle East the community is given more consideration than the individual; a person's choice doesn't just affect them but it affects the wider family, the next-door neighbours and those in the wider community.
Everyone shared in disbelief at a worldview that mistreats women, that regards women with less worth and value than men. A worldview that sees a father kill their child. It is difficult to understand an approach and worldview like this from a Western perspective. Especially in a culture that emphasises the individual and the concept of individual rights.
But no one mentioned the difficult stories from scripture...
- Abraham willing to sacrafice his son because of his beliefs
- talk of blessings and curses, of honour and shame within the Bible
- within evangelical circles the central theme that God the Father sent his son to a bloody death on the cross for the common good.
- communities of believers who practiced shunning people who put a foot wrong
- numerous bible passages that command women to submit themselves to their husbands to avoid causing shame and dishonour to their partners
My wind wandered to the parable of the prodigal son, particularly the response of the father. We have a picture of God who doesn't subscribe to the honour and shame approach of the dominant culture. We have a picture of God who doesn't subscribe to an approach of reward and punishment. Love, forgiveness and grace are the ways of this God.
I'm beginning to see the influence of wider culture on what we read in the pages of the Bible and in our own interpretations as we approach scripture.