Researchers identify, in broad strokes, three major culture types. One culture type is power/fear. Relationships, politics, and even worship is driven by power encounters and failure produces fear. Another culture type is based on honor/shame. Everything is weighed by the honor or shame something brings to themselves, their family, workplace, or community. The third type is innocence/guilt which puts great stock in adhering to law (written or unwritten), failure is identified and punished through guilt. The researchers note that all cultures have some flavor of all three but that one will be predominant. As we continue looking at faith, specifically “justified by faith” we’ll see how the Good News of Jesus touches our fear, our shame, and our guilt.
Paul wrote at length about faith, justification, and law in his letters. Many of us have had several of the verses memorized since youth. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NASB95) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NASB95) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8, NASB95) “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1, NASB95) But what does it mean to be justified?
The basic meaning is that through receiving Jesus, accepting Him as Lord and acknowledging His resurrection our fear, shame, and guilt before God is erased. We are saved from fear, shame, and guilt by grace through faith. You may think I’m stretching a point. That since “justified” is a legal term it only applies to guilt. But remember that Jesus not only carried our guilt on the Cross but also our shame (Hebrews 12:2), Also consider, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear….” (1 John 4:18, NASB95) It has been said that Jesus’ love nailed Him to the Cross.
So as we read “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1, NASB95) Let’s put that in the context of fear, shame, and guilt. Each one has an expected “payment”, some way to pay off or reconcile the fear, shame, or guilt. But the good news is that there is no need to. We come to God on His terms, not on ours. Jesus paid it all. He conquered and is more powerful than all, He is King of Kings. There is no fear in love and He loves us more than we can imagine. He accepts and welcomes us into His family regardless of our past if we receive and accept Him. Jesus does not turn His face but invites us to be with Him. We’re in Him and He’s in us. He forgives us through His grace by faith. Our guilt is fully and completely wiped away in Christ.
We only have one small part to play; we receive by faith and just faith. It’s hard to keep it there in that powerfully simple understanding. We want to do something to earn God’s favor and grace. However, that wouldn’t be faith. At its very core faith means we trust what someone else says. God says that though your heart was stained scarlet with sin, fear, shame, and guilt He has made you as white as snow through Jesus. Faith is trusting God and receiving the gift of His forgiveness, His love, and His grace. Faith, just faith.