John 6:45 “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”
Reading this I am reminded of stories I have read of earnest Muslims who had dreams that drove them to the Bible and to Christ. In the same way, I have met Jews who, in their search for real meaning in life, encountered Jesus as the Messiah. Someone who is honestly seeking God, and not just seeking to be validated in their preconceptions, is going to rejoice to hear the Gospel in truth. That’s a major issue in Japan, where the average person doesn’t think religion of any sort is in any way relevant to them. Rather than the Western stereotype of the “Oriental seeker after truth,” the average Japanese could hardly care less about religion, treating it as nothing more than tradition. Granted, tradition can be very important in Japan, but in the rush of modern society, even that is going by the wayside. The average Japanese intersects with religion when they are taken to a Shinto shrine as an infant, in something analogous to christening, when they get married, and when they die. “Chapel weddings” are very popular, even though less than 1% of the population is actively Christian, because most people view religion as totally irrelevant anyway. Funerals are largely Buddhist, to the point that many Japanese view Buddhism as a religion of death. All the ceremonies involved are certainly profitable for the temples! All of that makes Jesus’ words all the more tragic, because it indicates that the Japanese aren’t listening to their Creator. However, if the truth be told, many Americans have their fingers in their ears when it comes to what God is saying, too.
Since I minister in Japan, naturally the situation here is of great importance to me. I learned almost immediately than essentially none of the “evangelistic techniques” I learned in seminary were effective in Japan, because the Japanese had no foundation to receive them. For that matter, even Japanese evangelists have a lot of trouble getting genuine conversions. In my experience, most Japanese fall into one of two groups: those who feel no need for salvation at all, and those who desire and seek a strictly temporal salvation, that is, relief from some problem on this earth. I have had people in the latter group go through all the motions, including baptism, and then disappear because their problems didn’t vanish. Personal religion tends to be a mishmash of traditions and superstitions, but when you point that out, even to really intelligent people, they just shrug and say that’s the way it is. A Japanese Christian doctor and I were discussing how the average Japanese will say that they are both Shinto and Buddhist, when those two religions have some directly contradictory tenets, and another doctor who was in on the conversation said, “Well, that’s the way I am.” The Christian doctor and I were taken aback, because the speaker was a brilliant orthopedic surgeon and manifestly very intelligent. I cannot rely on intellectual persuasion; I’ve got to rely on the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. I need to pray for spiritual hunger in the Japanese people. Immediately after WWII evangelism got lots of response, but there weren’t enough missionaries and Japanese Christians were too battered by all they had gone through to really be active in persuading their neighbors. All of that sounds very negative, but nothing is impossible for God, and I am to seek His will and stay available to Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I don’t know what revival in Japan is going to look like, but it was recently prophesied that it won’t look like what we expect. Help me not miss it because of my preconceptions, but be fully available to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!