June 23, 2011

Micah 4:5 All the nations may walk
in the name of their gods;
we will walk in the name of the LORD
our God for ever and ever.

On the 14th, when the reading was the parallel passage in Isaiah 2, I wrote on verse 3, which echoes or is echoed by verse 2 in Micah 4, about the nature of the commitment of those who would come to the God of Jacob. What I missed in that verse comes out again in this one, and that is the simple fact of the commitment. In the case of Gentiles coming to Yahweh, it is a decision to change religions. Few if any Americans understand what that means, because regardless of what some people are trying to do in rewriting America’s history, it was founded on the assumption that the God of the Bible is the only true God, and that has trickled down through the centuries. People might not follow Him (and I’d say a majority do not), but He is the underlying assumption. Japan is radically different. Christianity is still widely considered a foreign religion, and many people feel they would have to give up being Japanese to convert. (That’s not true, but that is how they feel.) This verse is asking the question, in whose name do you walk? Becoming a Christian is certainly a matter of individual faith and repentance, but in Japan at least, it is also a matter of changing labels, and that can be a really big deal.

That is a pressing issue in this church right now, with an older couple who have officially severed ties with their previous Buddhist temple with the intention of becoming Christians, yet they still have little idea of what sin, repentance, and forgiveness are all about. On top of that, yesterday in visiting the mental hospital I had two men declare to me that they were changing their religion to Christianity. My American mindset doesn’t know what to do with that! I am not to abandon teaching repentance and faith by any means, but I do need to examine what it is to become a Christian after having been something else. The American mindset tends to assume a vacuum before a person “comes to Christ,” and in Japan, at least socially speaking, that is almost never the case. Few Japanese have strong personal faith in anything, so the label takes on all the more importance. I need to receive these “label changers” and teach them the truth of God.

Father, I’m a bit stirred up over this. In the past I have baptized some people too early, and they have quickly fallen away. I don’t want to repeat that, but I must not let fear of that cause me to turn people away. Help me trust You while seeking and receiving Your wisdom and guidance, so that these “bruised reeds” may not be broken, but rather brought whole into the kingdom of God, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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