The God Who Spoke
On Aug. 15, 1945 a ‘god’ spoke. When Emperor Hirohito of Japan directly addressed his subjects for the very first time, life came to a temporary standstill around the world. Hirohito’s announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender not only ended a war and brought peace, it ended the myth that the emperor of Japan was divine. He spoke and the world changed.
Because of this historical event, much changed in Japan as well. A new constitution was adopted and war was renounced. Democratic ideas took root in Japan and the emperor was reduced to a figurehead. Japanese industries flourished and a new middle class emerged resulting in a booming economy. The phrase “Made in Japan” stamped on manufactured goods was no longer derided as symbol of cheapness or inferiority, but esteemed as a mark of quality and success. Expensive vacations, quality education, designer clothes and the latest electronic gadgets could be purchased by the masses and it seemed the lone threat to a peaceful, prosperous society was the legendary Godzilla!
Certainly much changed after the emperor spoke, but in some regards nothing changed. The god of war had only been replaced by the god of materialism. At the same time, the traditional gods of Japan were still venerated through worship at Shinto god shelves or Buddhist altars in homes throughout the country. Japanese still made periodic pilgrimages to the local shrines or temples for various life events and relied on purchased good luck charms for success and protection. The often-repeated phrase “We Japanese” continued to mean among other things, “We are Buddhist”. An occasional church could be found in obscure corners of Japan, but temples and shrines remained the symbol of the country and retained a strong grip on the Japanese heart. Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.
As the influence of the West has increasingly come to Japan, Christmas music may now be heard by Japanese on any street corner or in any department store weeks before Christmas. But only a handful have heard of the real God who took on the form of flesh, intervened in history and drew near to people. God brought eternal change by offering peace not just between men, but more importantly, between God and man. The only and Living God has spoken, but few in Japan seem to be listening. The noise of traditions, things and success has almost drowned out the message of the Gospel.
This then leads to a very important question. That is “If no one seems to be listening, should we therefore give up, pack our bags and go home?” Absolutely not! Just as the one lost sheep had immeasurable value to the conscientious shepherd, so do the few Japanese who have listened to the Good Shepherd’s voice and placed their trust in Him. To this end OMF has invested more than fifty years in Japan planting churches, promoting student ministry, training pastors and networking with other missions so that the few might multiply into an army. Obviously, we are still in the early stages of this struggle so more workers are needed to assist in this worthy and eternal endeavor. We give thanks for the changed lives of the few, but we long for more Japanese to hear the voice of the God who loved them so much He died for them. Won’t you help?