ConclusionOne of the reasons that I went to Japan was to serve the Japanese by sharing God’s value proposition: through the death of Jesus for our rebellion we can have a relationship with the God who created each of us. Forever! Saying is not doing, and the situation did not turn out to be how I had imagined. No one was really asking logical questions about which religions offered more to their adherents. Instead, they were asking more fundamental questions, like is the Bible really true enough to alienate my family for.1 How does one prove that a God you cannot see, touch, or hear (at least, not usually) really exists? That He really loves you? That He is reliable? Not by eloquent arguments, but “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
This is the hard part, because relationships are hard work and not so gratifying (at least to an introvert who values ideas and accomplishments). Loving people involves a certain sacrificing of your pleasures, your ambitions, your values. If there is anything I find difficult it sacrificing those things. And so it was with some difficulty that I did many things that, frankly were of little interest to me (not that they were not worth doing, they were just not interesting), at least at first. Sometimes it was very difficult to take the intiative and talk to someone. So to some extent, while I did many things for God, my heart was not always in it and surely it showed. (Fortunately, God is better at using us than we are at failing)
On the other hand, I remember sitting in one of our last cafe meetings. The cafe meetings, which were a sort of seeker-oriented fellowship group of younger Christians in the church, aged from middle school to early career, were not something I greatly looked forward to. They were all in Japanese, of course, and we needed to take an active role in interacting with them during the activities. I find that hard in my native language, more so when I’m not sure if we can communicate. When all was said and done, though, they were fun, but the anticipation was difficult. So I was sitting in the meeting suddenly realizing that I kind of knew everyone there and that I was shortly to no longer have the opportunity to interact with them. No longer would I have the opportunity to get to know them, to love them, or (God willing) to bring them closer to Him. Until I was losing it, I did not realize the great priviledge I had! Nor did I realize how much even I value relationships until then.
One of the main reasons I went to Japan was to find out what missionaries do and see whether God wants me to go and do likewise. To my surprise, I discovered that they advance the kingdom of God the same way that everyone else does: through relationships. They just do it full time. I have secretly wanted to be a missionary for a long time, but found that I am not particulary excited by the activites involved in full-time ministry. But if I am willing to admit it, I really do enjoy building relationships. (And people do seem to think I am personable if I want to be.) So I can be a missionary, no matter where I live.
In fact, it is my responsibility to. God is at work in the world for one purpose—to bring us aimless wanderers back to Himself. Surely as God’s servant, friend, and adopted son I ought to be about the same work. When I stand before God at the end of time, can I justify a life of computer programs written to indulge my interests, or even in quality, innovative software? Can I justify spending my time writing a book so good that generations everafter will read it, if I do not try to bring the people I meet, whom He loves, to know Him? I look around at the people in America, even in the church, and notice that everyone has some focus in their life. A comfortable lifestyle, a great family, a Career, fun, or, for me, exploring knowledge and testing out ideas. Not that those are bad, but if the focus of our life is not advancing God’s kingdom, it seems that we, especially Christians, have missed the point. And from a purely practical standpoint, although I am to scared to let it seep into conciousness, deep down I know that my focus will not satisfy me anyway. All this is not to say that God necessarily wants me to build relationships full-time (otherwise, I could not meet the people I do), but my focus certainly needs to change.
Continue to: Traditional Houses
1 Perhaps they already knew Christianity’s value proposition. Apparently there was a survey that said that if there were no family pressures, 85% of Japanese would become Christian.