As I prepare for my mission trip to Japan in two weeks, what keeps coming to mind are images of hypothetical Japanese people I’ll meet while I’m there. These are people God created just like He created me; people God thoughtfully crafted just as much as He did me; people God loves, wants, worries over, and rejoices over like He does me; people God has a plan for and desires a relationship with and hopes to spend eternity with, just as He does for me.
I am no different in value to God than every individual person in Japan. This truth can easily escape me because my relationship with God is usually just about me and God, rarely focused on how God desires a relationship with some random person I don’t know just as much as He desires one with me. I guess God does such a good job at being a personal God, making each of us feel special, that sometimes we forget that He is also a universal God.
As I think about these unidentifiable Japanese people, I wonder what it would be like for them to hear the name of Christ and the message of God for the very first time. As less than 1% of Japan is Christian, and the majority of people have never heard the Good News, it is very likely that we will meet many people who have never even heard the name Jesus. To give some perspective, when one of the missionaries in Japan asked a Japanese person if they knew who Jesus was, they responded, “Is that a band? Is that a type of cuisine?” They had absolutely no context as to who Jesus is and more importantly, what He has done for them.
It got me thinking, can I remember the very first time I ever heard the name of Christ and the story of His birth, burial and resurrection? NO! I grew up in the Baptist Church, spending three nights a week there, constantly surrounded by believers, attending Bible studies, church choir rehearsals, congregation BBQs.
I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was six years old, so I barely remember life before conversion, much less when I first heard about Jesus. So I have absolutely no idea what it would feel like in my mind, my heart, my body, to hear this crazy, nearly unbelievable truth for the first time. I can imagine it’s something like, “So this all powerful mermaid god rose from the sea and turned into a man. He performed lots of miracles, was killed, but then came back to life and descended back into the sea. And if you believe this, you can live in the sea with him forever.”
Sounds crazy right? Well the story of Christ probably sounds just as crazy to people who have lived many years without hearing anything about it. But the difference is, the story of Christ is true, it is living, it is powerful, it completes our soul, changing us in this life and the next.
Most of us can’t fully relate to how it feels to hear the amazing story of Jesus for the first time, because even if you didn’t become a Christian until later in life, or if you’re not a believer at all, you’ve still probably grown up with the message of Christ around you. Throughout the years you’ve heard tidbits here and there, stories of Jesus’ miracles, a general overview of Christianity. So if someone were to share the Bible with you, you would have some logical context to plug it into.
As I meet and talk with people in Japan, I need to be extra sensitive to the fact that pretty much anything I say regarding Christ is brand new information to them, and could easily seem too crazy for them to even listen to. But on the other hand, I need to be in prayer that God would open their hearts and minds to this crazy truth, because God wants so desperately to have a relationship with them, like He has a relationship with me or you.
What if you never heard the name of Jesus and the Good News? Some of my non-believing friends would probably be ecstatic if we Christians would leave them alone, but at least these friends were given the opportunity, the choice. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like without Christ. If I were to be completely honest, I probably would have killed myself many years ago, due to a lack of hope and inner turmoil. Could there be a direct correlation between the 32,000 Japanese people that commit suicide every year and the fact that the country is less than 1% Christian?
Although intimidating, I am greatly looking forward to telling people about Jesus and His saving grace for the very first time.
Thank you for reading and for your prayers.