John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
Sometimes there are many differences in nuance between the English and Japanese translations of a passage, but here there is only one that jumps out at me. Where the NIV says “rejects,” the Japanese says, “doesn’t listen obediently.” There is actually a standard expression in Japanese that is, very simply, “listen and obey.” Its origins are probably wrapped up in the Japanese feudal system – bushido, the way of the warrior – that taught absolute obedience to one’s lord. I have become convinced that God has scattered gems of truth in every culture and language, which is why the Body of Christ is incomplete without representation from every one of those cultures and languages. Going back to this verse, we tend to put a more overt definition on “reject,” when in fact, simply failing to obey what you hear Christ speaking to you is rejecting Him. Any parent can tell you what that’s like, whether they have two-year-olds or teenagers! However, John the Baptist said that is inviting God’s abiding wrath, and that is dangerous indeed. Those who grow up in Christian cultures are tempted to take Christ, and indeed the whole Bible, for granted. That puts us in the position of deceiving ourselves, just as James said. (James 1:22) If we want to walk in the eternal life of Christ – and who doesn’t – then we must remember that it is a walk of obedience.
This certainly applies to me! Raised in a faithful missionary family, baptized at seven by my own volition and reading the Bible through by the time I was 10, I had Christian (and I don’t just mean American) culture down pat. I can’t remember consciously rejecting God, but there were certainly times when I didn’t want to listen, much less obey! It was devastating to me when, not long after my 24th Birthday, the Lord tapped me on the shoulder and, when I turned, showed me a mirror to see the state of my own soul. I collapsed to my knees, crying out, “My Lord and my God!” He had pulled back the web of lies the devil had used to blind me to my own condition, and I will be eternally grateful. I wish I could say that I have listened obediently with perfect consistency since then, but that would hardly be accurate. At least now I know how untrustworthy my own impulses are, so that I seek God’s guidance as much as possible ahead of time. He has used a minor little thing to help train me. When driving, if I use my own mind to calculate which lane is moving faster, trying to gain an advantage, I almost always end up taking more time than otherwise. However, if I consciously submit my mind to Him and let Him tell me to change lanes, I am always ahead of the game. In fact, I have avoided getting involved in accidents that way! I don’t want to reject God in any way, but listen obediently so that I may walk in His life/light/lane at all times, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for Your incredible faithfulness. Thank You that You are always worth listening to! Thank You for all that You are doing in this church. Thank You that my cold seems much better, and that I was able to sleep in the bed all night, rather than having to switch to the chair. It’s been about a week since I was able to do that, which gives me a heightened appreciation for the simple blessing of being able to sleep in bed. Help me walk in full gratitude at all times, knowing that even hard training is evidence of Your grace, so that I may indeed hear You accurately and obey You fully, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!