Acts 16:31-34 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.
I really think verse 31 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible in Japan. That’s because so many Christians are the only believer in their family, and they naturally want their whole family to be saved. I think the “missing link” in many cases, at least, is verse 32. That is to say, no one ever speaks the word of the Lord to the other members of the family. I know of many Christians who were actively cut off from their families after they “came out” as believers. I’m reminded of something I’ve heard recently, of conservative gay people saying it was much harder to come out as conservative than it was to come out as gay. In this particular instance of the jailer and his family, everyone had been made receptive by the earthquake and aftermath, so everyone listened intently. Sadly, that’s not the case for so many Japanese believers; their family members have no desire or inclination to hear about Christ. That can change. The man I baptized recently has an older sister who was the first Christian in the family, and his younger brother’s wife is a member of this church. The sister has prayed for her brother for 40 years! Naturally, she was overcome when she got the news of his baptism. Now they need to “gang up” in prayer for the younger brother! That said, verse 31 doesn’t mean that one person’s faith saves multiple people; we are all individually responsible to commit to Jesus as Lord.
This is something I have struggled with over the years. I was raised in a strongly Christian family so it wasn’t so personally significant, but even I have relatives who don’t seem to have a personal relationship with Christ. Ministering in Japan, the situation is as I’ve already described, with few Christian families. That’s why so many people cling to verse 31! Japanese society greatly values external unity, and someone changing religions greatly disturbs that. People value temporal calm more than eternal salvation! There’s a proverb that says it’s not scary to cross against the light if you do it as a group. That, along with a very strong sense of personal privacy, makes genuine personal evangelism very difficult. Someone might notice the increased peace and happiness in a friend or family member, but they aren’t likely to ask about it. It often takes a crisis before they will do so, reaching out to someone who seems to have the peace they are so acutely aware they lack. Even when that happens, the Christian in that case is often unprepared to share Christ in a way that makes any sense at all to the person asking. That’s where I come in. I need to prepare the believers to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) The man I just baptized says that it was his sister-in-law’s recovery from severe clinical depression, and her insistence that Jesus got all the credit, that brought him to faith, to his own considerable surprise.
Father, I do ask for more Christian families in Japan. I pray that the believers would be emboldened to share Christ with their families and friends, not fearing the rejection that might actually come. May they understand that the Holy Spirit is provided to empower them as witnesses, and rejoice to be filled and used by Him for the salvation of many, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!