Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours (Isaiah 61:7).
Isaiah 61 heralds the Messiah who releases those imprisoned by shame, bestowing on them honor instead. To Western ears, this may seem comforting, but not necessarily life changing.
In Western culture, shame is largely an undesirable emotion that individuals avoid or hide from others. In Islamic cultures, however, shame is much more than a feeling. For a Muslim, shame is an actual position in society, always attached to the group to which one belongs, be it a nation, tribe or family.
Muslim women are at the epicenter of the shame conflict. As symbols of honor, their behavior can tip the shame scale, impacting entire nations.
The good news of the gospel for Muslims is that not only are the guilty forgiven, but the shamed are given honor. Shame no longer separates them from a holy God. The Messiah Jesus has established their honor before God forever.
For Muslim women, the knowledge that through Jesus Christ they have immovable, unshakeable value is revolutionary. Jesus is moving in the lives of Muslim women today, rescuing them from shame. Here are five ways He is transforming their lives.
1. By Making Them Clean
“I always knew I could be forgiven. But I never knew I could be clean.” With these words, the old lady’s wizened face stretched wide with wonder and joy. Women had walked from far and near to listen to a Bible teacher tonight in thisremote area of the Muslim world.
For the first time in her long life, one grandmother learned that Jesus removes her shame.
Clean is another word for honor. Although this woman from a Muslim culture had been a Christ-follower for years, she had never understood the cleansing power of her Savior.
She had accepted Him without fully realizing the scope of His love for her, the measure of the freedom He accomplished for her through His death and resurrection by making her spiritually clean.
Her realization that Jesus not only forgives our sin but also makes us clean, echoes the cry for honor in the hearts of many Muslim women. The struggle for honor is, at its heart, a struggle for redemption.
Muslim women demonstrate the desire to be made pure before God every day as they carefully perform the duties of Islam, hoping to make themselves “clean” enough to be accepted by God.
Through Jesus the Messiah, every woman can stand clean and acceptable before God.
2. By Being Their Burden Bearer
The young women scattered like blue butterflies as their burqas swept behind them in a cloud of dust. The purity police were making rounds, beating any woman caught with her face or hair exposed.
Muslim women bear the honor-burden in Islamic cultures. Honor and shame rest on females and their behavior.
If they follow the rules, they maintain a position of honor which extends to their family, community, and nation. If they break the rules, the resulting disgrace impacts everyone, often resulting in exclusion from the group.
Jesus bore the honor-burden for Muslim women. He abolished shame on the cross and established honor for every person who will believe in him and call upon his name.
3. By Being the Guarantee
Nine-year-old Areefa carefully watched her mother and imitated every move. Hands up… hands crossed. They were performing the daily ritual Muslim prayers, and Areefa wanted to get it exactly right. If she was faithful, she might gain God’s favor. A lifetime of good deeds would increase her chances of entering heaven one day.
There is no guarantee of salvation within Islam. Although a Muslim woman may make a confession of faith, devoutly perform her daily prayers, fast, give alms to the poor, and make the pilgrimage to Mecca, her good deeds may not sway God to accept her on the final Day of Judgement. Salvation is strived for, hoped for, but not promised.
The woman who believes in Jesus does not have to fear rejection when she faces God after death. The Messiah has secured our position of honor before God guaranteed. For all who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior, salvation is secure.
4. By Being the God Who Sees
Saadiya stood trembling before the judge. Would he grant her freedom from her abusive husband today? According to the law, her testimony was only worth half that of a man. But her Christian friend had prayed with her and asked God to stand right beside her in court today. She knew God saw her, but would he grant her favor?
Many Muslim women know they are seen by God, but they are not sure He cares. For the woman who carries shame because of sin another has committed against her, such as abuse, there can seem to be no hope.
One in such circumstances cannot work her way out of disgrace. She is marked for the rest of her life.
Jesus knows what it means to be marked. Even after His resurrection, He bore the scars from the nails on the cross that we may know nothing can stop the power of God from giving us new life and a fresh start. There is hope for the marked in Jesus Christ.
Jesus both sees the heart of the Muslim woman and cares about the burden she carries. He calls her by name and invites her to follow Him.
The Messiah sets women everywhere free from the burden of shame. His death and resurrection have restored humanity’s position of honor before God.
Jesus gives all women beauty instead of ashes, hope instead of despair, honor instead of shame.
Audrey Frank is the author of Covered Glory: The Face of Honor and Shame in the Muslim World (Harvest House Publishers, 2019). She and her family have spent over two decades living and working among different cultures and world views. Audrey has spoken seven languages and has three college degrees, but her greatest credential is that she is known and loved by the One who made her. He is the God of Instead, who gives honor instead of shame, gladness instead of mourning, and hope instead of despair. Audrey is committed to telling His stories of Instead in the lives of people around the world. Visit her at www.audreyfrank.com or on Facebook and Twitter @audreycfrank.
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