Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Purpose of the Swamp of God

I haven't written on this blog in awhile, but in reading some different things on pages just now, this thought I had not long ago came to me, as well as a picture I hope to make soon.

Yes, there has been a "swamp" in Japan. Endo was mistaken, however. Endo thought the "swamp" was that Japan was not good ground for Christianity. Yes and no. Japan is good ground for Christ, but not good ground for the "ianity".

I believe God has sovereignly allowed much of this "swamp" because He is using it to help His people let go of what they don't need -- and what Japan does not need. Japan does not need a western-packaged gospel. Japan does not need to lose her soul -- she needs to know that her soul is made for Jesus, and God has set eternity in her and created her heart.

Japan needs more of Him and less of "us". God has sovereignly allowed this "swamp" to bring us (foreigners and entrenched-in-the-west Christians) to a point of repentance, to strip away what is actually keeping the gospel in a box here. We've been discouraged because Japan has not joined us in our box, but God has made Japan to fly free in Him, not to live in our box.

I was an official missionary once. But now I am more of a true "missionary" than I was before. As a foreigner and as a Christian from the west, an American, I want to begin this repentance to Japan.

We have told you that you did not know God.

You did know God deep, deep inside, even though you didn't know His name.

We tried to start from scratch. We didn't wait to hear how He was already working in you.

We came in with idea after idea, gimmick after gimmick, leader after leader, book after book, always trying to "teach" you.

We didn't water the seed that God had put in you -- we tried to plant another.

We gave you suits and neckties. We overwhelmed you with our technology and military power. We forced you open. Forgive us, Japan.

You were afraid. You wanted to protect yourselves. But we sailed in and held you at gunpoint. We held you hostage to make you trade with us. We wanted your money and goods instead of wanting you yourselves.

On top of this, we felt this was "a good opportunity" to "save your souls", so we preached the gospel after wounding you so severely. Many of you adopted our religion, but the wound was there in your heart, and you never felt like you were "coming home" to Jesus. Forgive us.

We used an experimental bomb on you twice more than necessary, and today we continue to invoke Pearl Harbor to justify it. We fire-bombed your cities. We killed your children and homes. Then we pointed to what your army had done abroad to justify ourselves.

Today we want your business. We want to sell you weapons. We want you to join our world police-force actions, even though we know it is not good for you and your relationship with your neighbors. We helped you choose peace after the war, and now we are subtly trying to move you away from it. Forgive us for trying to buy you, for trying to make you sell your conscience for better trade ties with us.

After the war, we lamented that so few of our own people answered MacArthur's call to preach the Gospel to you. We felt like we had missed an opportunity. God held us back, because He loved you so much -- He would not let His Gospel be sown with abuse as it had twice in the past.

Forgive us for using politics to try and advance our own interests and advance the gospel. Forgive us for not dealing honestly with you, not esteeming the least of you, but for going for leaders so that they could convert you en masse. Forgive us for neglecting the weak and poor among you. Forgive us for bringing a culture of materialism and a gospel of prosperity to you -- and losing the soul of the Gospel in the process, teaching you to walk with us past the poor and needy dressed in our Sunday-best on the way to "church".

Forgive us for Xavier's ways, Lord, forgive us, Japan. Forgive us for when we converted Daimyo into "Christian warlords". Forgive us for standing by in approval as they converted your people at swordpoint, as they waged war and spread "Christianity" with the sword. Forgive us for not protesting Nobunaga's terrible treatment of Buddhists.

Forgive us for thinking that our martyrdom was wholly the result of your evil, Japan, and wholly because we were righteous. Forgive us for our blindness in not seeing what we had done to you, what came with us knowingly or unknowingly.

Forgive us for forcing Christianity on you, and for forcing our traditions on you who did receive Christ. Forgive us for wounding you through our desire for your riches and your trade. Please forgive us for dropping firebombs and atomic bombs on you. Please forgive us for forcing you open with our powerful ships. Forgive us for talking about how godless you are.

Forgive us for only seeing the idolatry and spiritual oppression in your shrines and temples, and neglecting the control, idolatry and spiritual oppression in our own churches, traditions, culture and that we've brought with us to impose on you. Forgive us for trying to remove the speck from your nation while missing the planks in our eyes and in our hearts.

Lord, open our eyes to see You in Japan, and help us speak to the heart of Japan that You made for Yourself -- and help us speak the Gospel without any of "us", but only with You. Help us past the limitations of our culture, Lord. Help us see our blindspots and faults in history. Break our western "righteousness", Lord.

Forgive us, God, and forgive us, Japan. We want you to know Jesus, Japan, not us. Bend us, Lord, so that Japan may see You who love her so much.

In Jesus' name, amen.


  • At December 22, 2008 2:09 PM, Anonymous Nick said…

    I think you make a good point that we need to contextualize the Gospel for Japan, but this is more difficult than it sounds in theory.

    While we need to contextualize, we also cannot compromise. We cannot except ancestor or emperor worship. We cannot accept a view of the Bible as anything less than THE God given Truth. We cannot accept a "Christian" who prizes their nationality above their faith in Christ.

    And what do we do with the existing church - God's people - that has compromised? Do we work with it from the inside (which isn't easy), or the outside?

    Either way, I long for Japanese Christian believers who are strong in heart, soul and mind to rise up in this generation.

  • At December 22, 2008 3:01 PM, Anonymous Ramone said…

    Hi NB,

    I generally agree. You might want to look at some of the posts that follow this one.

    "Contextualize"... I'm not sure of the word. I hear it here and there, but what it seems to mean to me is a kind of "re-packaging", and you know that never works. Because then we're just re-decorating the outside. And the God I know is the One who made the heart, who wants to dwell in the heart, and has put a space in each heart for Him. He sets up camp there and works from the inside outward. Re-packaging focuses on the outside and that's why it fails pretty badly.

    I think a lot of Christian history in the past in Japan has sort of done the re-packaging thing. We've had the Japanese put on Western clothes, so to speak. And of course the answer is not to take off western clothes and put on Japanese ones, but rather to fall on our faces before God and ask Him to bring them to His heart --and bring *us* back to His heart.

    The reason I can write the things I did above is because the longer I'm here, the more I realize that we (from the west, particularly the USA) have "contextualized" the gospel. We've put it in a sort of American packaging that prizes individual 'rights', arms-bearing to secure political freedom, etc. Without realizing it, we've merged the gospel so deeply with 'Americanisms' that we cannot tell them apart. Loud voices in the States regularly declare that faith in Christ is part of being American, or that this or that American venture (business, war, etc.) is God's will. Your statement, "We cannot accept a 'Christian' who prizes their nationality above their faith in Christ" then takes on a surprising, double-edged and gut-piercing sword when applied in the mirror to Americans.

    So in seeking to help Japanese people connect with God deep in their hearts (rather than adopting a western culture), one of the first things involved is recognizing and repenting of how far we have strayed from the gospel ourselves -- how much we ourselves have added onto it from our own cultures.

    I read somewhere that the task of communicating the gospel is very similar to that of Bible translators. The translator's job is to translate the words of Scripture into another language -- but *not* translate his or her beliefs about what those words mean. That is the job of the theologian. The translator's task is to faithfully translate the words of Scripture as they are. To do this the translator has to step back from his or her own culture as much as possible and try to work from & translate the original culture's words and meanings.

    In the same way, our task is to as much as possible stand back from our own culture and give the *gospel* as free of our own culture as possible.

    I can't say how this is done point by point. I don't think I could write a method or book of it, you know? It's just something very raw in the Spirit, and it comes out when praying most of all. When I try and methodize it out or systemize it, it collapses (and I collapse under the fleshy weight of ironing it out). But when I take one thing at a time to God in prayer, His Spirit guides.

    Bless you in Jesus!

  • At December 22, 2008 11:25 PM, Anonymous Nick said…

    I know it's a double edged sword. :)

    True, I suppose contextualize assumes a few things. 1) It assumes you extract your culture from the gospel truth you present. 2) It assumes you make the gospel truth applicable - notice applicable, NOT necessarily attractive. 3) It assumes you include all the gospel truth in your new presentation in a foreign culture.

    However we know that practice is different from theory, and you get more attendance if you short cut and leave at least one of these out.

  • At July 15, 2009 8:29 PM, Anonymous Renee said…

    Ramone, I stand in awe of God... What a blessing your works and words have been to me now!
    I am a Christian artist living in South Africa, and I am very interested in the Japanese Nihonga art techniques. For a while now, I have been researching fervently...wondering why the Japanese "link" happened...all this is in a way beginning to make sense.

    Be abundantly blessed!!


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