Chinese and Shame

Although all observers note that the Chinese place great emphasis upon “face” and therefore shame, how much that should influence the way in which the Gospel is presented remains a question which only the Scriptures can answer. Without detracting from some of the helpful insights of previous articles on this subject in the TMQ, I would like to remind us all of the essence of the Good News.

Jesus told his disciples that “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). At Pentecost, Peter told the crowd to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The apostles consistently preached this same message (see Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:18, 20).

To the Corinthians, Paul wrote that he delivered to them “as of first importance… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Everywhere, he emphasized alienation because of sin and reconciliation because of Christ (see Romans 3:21-25; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Loss of shame and full confidence God’s love come after, and with, reconciliation through faith in the work of Christ on the cross for our sins. It is, to be sure, a major blessing, especially appreciated, perhaps, by the Chinese.

On the other hand, the idea of shame centers on the opinions of others, whereas the Gospel would point us towards the opinion of God (see, for example, Matthew 6:1-18).

Without an adequate understanding of sin, true faith is not impossible. Perhaps we need to preach more on the nature of God and of his righteous demands. Maybe then our hearers would appreciate that their major problem is not shame, but guilt.