Since going to Bible college, I’ve been introduced to various forms of studying the Bible, and it’s always interesting being introduced to another (legitimate) way to study the Bible. I first heard of “honor discourse” through David deSilva’s Introduction to the New Testament, a large, helpful introduction to the NT.
This book is a much, much more condensed version of that book. It’s a sort in introduction to Honor Discourse and the New Testament Interpretation. Essentially, in the first century there was a lot of Honor/Shame going on. If someone asked you a question amongst a public group, it was a form of a test where, if you passed you gained honor for yourself, and if you failed you lost honor (Mt. 5:39; 9:3, 14; 12:2; 19:3; etc). Honor was brought on by the individual, but it was very much for the family/community/church.
If a baseball player is caught taking steroids, what is done to him? He’s usually suspended from the game until further notice with repeat offenses resulting in expulsion from the group. Why? Because he’s not playing the game according to the rules that all teams agree upon. In doing so, he is not participating on the same level as the rest of his team consequently giving them a bad name.
We see this in 1 Corinthians 5 (really, all over the book and it’s sequel). A man in the church is having sexual relations with his fathers wife (forbidden in Lev. 18:8), yet the church is doing nothing about it. In fact, they are priding themselves on the fact that they are so accepting of this man’s sin! Paul tells them their glorying is not good. They believe themselves to be so wise, yet they can’t seem to lay hold of the wisdom of Christ. How do they think they are going to judge angels if they can’t even judge the matters of this life?
We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14; Jam 4:4), and that does not only mean in marriage. The church is holy and set apart for God, yet we are supposed to walk in those good works that He has set before us and are not to look like the world. The Thessalonians were being shamed by those in society who saw them as “atheists” who were turning away from the Roman pantheon of gods (1 Thess. 1:9) who ‘gave’ Thessalonica its free status as a city.
Yet Paul encourages the church by reminding them of His love for them and his friendship with them, and most of all that God knows them and loves them. His opinion matters more than that of society, for “it is a righteous thing with God to pay with tribulation whose who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:6-8).
But the Thessalonian church has also grown to a point that now they can work to shame (or redirect) uncooperative members. Paul warns of idleness in 2 Thess. 3:6-15. v6 says if one doesn’t work (and has no intention to but is instead a leech on the society) they should not eat. Yet don’t admonish them out of anger. “If anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:14-15). The point isn’t to make on feel ashamed of themselves because you hate them. Admonish his as a brother, one who you love. They are not the enemy.
However, Matthew (18:15-20) says that there will come a point after some points of confrontation, the uncooperative man will have to be let go from the church community. “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Mt. 18:17).
This comes between the parables of the lost sheep (18:10-14) and of the unforgiving servant (18:21-35). The heavens rejoice when one who has strayed is found and brought to repentance, and we are to be ready to forgive. But in the midst of that, we do need to confront open sin in love in effort to turn a sinner from the error of his way, to save a soul from death, and to cover a multitude of sins (Jam. 5:20).
If this person really desires to follow God, the ‘Patron’ who has shown them unmerited grace, they should repent. However, if they don’t, then they are not cooperating with the community and the One who makes the standards (Jesus Himself), and are to be let go in hopes and prayers that they will repent, turn from their sin, and return to the believing community.
Indeed. This approach to studying the Bible is not viewed as the “best” way, but simply one way to enhance our investigation of the Bible’s many layers of meaning and application. DeSilva is a trustworthy guide to follow, one who can easily open up the world of the NT and make you feel like you’re meeting new neighbors.
- Author: David deSilva
- Paperback: 246 pages
- Publisher: Wipf & Stock (July 1, 2009)
- Reader Level: College, Pastor, Teacher
- A link to deSilva’s book page of his blog site
- Post: Challenge-Response in an Honor/Shame Culture in Matthew
- Other books by David deSilva
Buy it from Amazon or Wipf & Stock
Disclosure: I received this book free from Wipf & Stock. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.