Influence; August 20, 2018


Acts 9:18-19 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

It fascinated me years ago when I realized that the expression, “scales fell from [my] eyes” is perhaps even more common in Japan than it is in the US. At first I thought there must be some other source for it in Japan, but no, it comes from this story. It occurs to me that we understand “influence” very little. We understand very little of how we are influenced by various things, and we understand even less how we influence others. Japan is a manifestly non-Christian nation, but it has been influenced greatly by Christianity. Even the Shinto wedding ceremony, now being largely supplanted by “chapel weddings,” was a deliberate creation taking elements from Catholic weddings, at a time when common people didn’t have wedding ceremonies at all, but just a wedding feast. The Shinto priests realized that a wedding ceremony was a very attractive element of this “foreign” religion, so they adopted it. Christians are also behind the entire social welfare system in Japan. Fudeko Ishii from right here in Omura, and the more famous Toyohiko Kagawa from Kobe, created a social welfare system practically from scratch that was codified into law well before WWII. Both endured much criticism for their faith, even from people who supported what they were doing. Such critics didn’t understand that they wouldn’t, couldn’t, have done what they did apart from their faith, and the love of God operating through them. They were trying to influence, and the Shinto priests were seeking influence, but most of the time it is far less conscious. Paul speaks of such influence as an aroma. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) We are drawn to things that smell good to us, and repulsed by things that smell bad, but we often don’t know how we smell to others! Much is made these days of the influence smells have on us emotionally, with “aroma therapy” being quite a business. The point for Christians is to stay spiritually clean so that nothing will mask the aroma of Christ in us, because He will draw people to Himself. Just as Paul said, some people will be repulsed by the aroma of Christ, but we are to pray mercy and repentance for them. At the same time, we need to choose our influences carefully, surrounding ourselves with what will help and not hinder our walk with the Lord. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Living and ministering in Japan as I do, I really wonder how I am influencing others. I see my wife influencing others greatly, in very good ways. She has almost singlehandedly made hugging acceptable among a fairly wide circle of friends and acquaintances! Some of her lady friends seem very hungry for her hugs. I have sought to influence my school students, both through praying for them at the beginning of each class and through what I say and do both in the classroom and out of it. The effect of that influence is something I won’t know until heaven, if then, but I do need to be careful that I don’t distort it in any way. I may not coin a phrase that will become part of the national vocabulary or foster a government ministry, but if I draw people to seek Christ, that is enough.

Father, I do pray that the aroma of Christ in me would draw many to repentance and faith, for their salvation and 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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