There Is Only One God?
By Jeff MacKay

The invisible world has a strong hold on the culture of Japan; it affects the people's worldview and their concept of God.

When I first came to Japan I felt helpless. I sensed the spiritual fortresses of the country and was aware that I was powerless to break through them.

I often asked myself questions like these: "Why is it that when a Japanese person gives his or her life to Jesus Christ it is often an act of desperation?" "Why do Japanese people usually have to come to the end of their rope before they convert?" "Why do they attend church services for many months before being baptized?"

I repeatedly encountered reactions like the following from people I would talk with about Jesus: "Impossible!" This was Shigeki's response when he first heard the story about the Resurrection. Even though he had gone to the Shinto shrine and the Buddhist temple to offer prayers, he never sincerely believed there was a God.

"Although I went to those places, I was not sure what to believe," he told me. "I just wanted to get blessings or good fortune."

When Satoyo first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ she thought it was just a make-believe story. "I believed gods were in the trees and stones. I believed my ancestors became gods watching over me, and that the gods protected me," Satoyo explained.

When I asked her what she thought when she used to go to the temple, she said: "I believed God would not answer my prayers only because I prayed; He would answer according to my behavior."

The Invisible World
Shigeki and Satoyo are now Christians. But it took years for them to understand and accept many concepts about Jesus Christ that Christians in the West take for granted.

Imagine, for example, if you were asked to attend a Buddhist temple for religious services. You might go because of interest or curiosity, but it would be difficult for you to understand all that was going on at first. Just as Asians' concept of religion is foreign to us Americans, so our concept of God is foreign to them.

The Asian worldview is different from ours in three ways.

First, Asians have no concept of the world being created or having a beginning. Buddhism teaches a circular existence--reality has always been--and people and all living creatures are reincarnated. So the creation of the Earth, and especially that God Himself created the world, are not concepts in Eastern religion.

Second, to Asians the idea of Jesus dying for our sins seems unnecessary and His resurrection seems fictional. In Japanese the word for sin means "criminal." So, for the Japanese, the following reaction to Jesus' dying on the cross for their sins is common: "Why do I need Jesus to die for me? I am not a criminal."

Similarly, the idea of Jesus being resurrected from the dead is like a fairy tale or legend to the Japanese. "It didn't really happen, did it?" would be their response.

Third, the Eastern concept of the unseen world makes the need to believe in Jesus' deity less important. This is perhaps the most difficult problem to overcome. The Asian view of the spiritual world is pluralistic; they have a belief in spirits, both bad and good, who live in trees, mountains, caves and rocks.

Ancestor worship is included as part of their spiritual beliefs as well. Spirits and ancestors can be asked to grant favors. This spiritual worldview affects them dramatically.

Changing Their Worldview
Upon my arrival in Japan God gave me two words of instruction. The first was, "Pray for the people to come." I did, and they came! The second was, "God will do the work." I live by these words. And I have learned that the way God does the work is through "friendship evangelism."

Shigeki is a good example of how God works in this way. He told me the story of what happened after one of his friends at college in Tokyo told him about God.

"She was a new Christian and wanted to share her faith with me," he related. "I first rejected her suggestions to read the Bible and go to church. Being Japanese, I had bought a few Buddhist books and read them. I had been looking for the meaning of life since I had become a college student, but I couldn't find the answer in those Buddhist books.

"In 1982, several months after my friend shared her faith, I encountered God personally. He encouraged me, saying: 'You say you cannot do anything. But you have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to hold, legs to walk and a head to think. You can do something with them.'
Shigeki continued: "I didn't know what to do in the future and was in despair. I knew at that moment it was God talking to me. After reading the Bible and finding out that Jesus is the Son of God, I decided to follow Him and get baptized in 1985."

For Shigeki, this was a three-year process. Since giving his life to Jesus, he has graduated from Life Pacific College (formerly LIFE Bible College) and Fuller Theological Seminary. He is now the senior pastor of Nanae Zion Church and also serves as the board secretary of Japan Foursquare Gospel Church.

As missionaries, we build relationships; we hold fun events and invite people to church. We teach basic concepts during conversations and in our sermons at church.

For example, we teach about the one and only God who created our universe and rules all. When this gap is closed, the Japanese person can more easily come to Christ.

We don't pressure them. We wait. And sure enough, just before our beach baptisms in the summer, more of them get baptized. It may have taken years, but now is their time.

Jeff MacKay and his wife, Naoko, have been missionaries to Japan for eight years. They have three children: Rachel, Sarah and Joseph.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...