Recently my Japanese friend, a missionary in Japan, asked for prayer about her troubled feeling aroused by the movie, Silence, shot in Taiwan by Hollywood director, Martin Scorsese. According to Time Magazine, “Silence is a somber epic about Jesuit priests struggling to keep their faith in violently anti-Christian 17th century Japan”. (Note1)
My friend also posted an article written by a Japanese pastor, Marre Ishii. He was upset after watching a screening of this film. I learned from this article that the movie was adapted from the novel, by the same name, about Japanese history. According to Mr Ishii, the book author, Shusako Endo, ” … wrestled with Catholic faith but continued to be a Catholic out of respect for his mother”.
After reading through Ishii’s article (Note 2), I cannot help but point out three observations and hope to encourage my Christian fellows to discern Satan’s deception.
- “Why was God silent in the midst of this tragedy in history?”Mr Ishii wrote that this is an universal question asked by all religions and races. He mentioned tragedies like the Holocaust, African slavery and the 9-11 terrorist attack. Nevertheless, I feel sad to say that not many people in the world know much about another tragedy: the Nanjing (Nanking) Massacre. This was an episode of mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing in 1937.According to BBC Magazine, reported by Mariko Oi in 2013 (Note 3), the former history teacher and scholar, Tamaki Matsuoka, accuses the Japanese government of a deliberate silence about atrocities in the massacre. I do not mean to condemn the Japanese people. On the contrary, it’s urgent to recognize that the spiritual darkness over Japanese society is so heavy there has been an increase in suicide rates and many other emotional issues.“Japan has no history of Christianity so here suicide is not a sin,” says Wataru Nishida, a psychologist at Tokyo’s Temple University (Note 4). Therefore, I pray for my missionary friend whom God sent to “ … open their (Japanese people’s) eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus” (Acts 26:18).
- Mr Ishii wrote that from his experience in Japan, and as a pastor, that this movie will portray a God of great love and compassion as indifferent to the suffering of his saints. Faith in Jesus and love for all saints springs from the hope that is heard from the word of truth (refer to Colossians 1:5). As Christians, we shall spread the gospel in a God-loving motivation, rather than the fear of not completing our obligation.When we are asked, “How is a loving God indifferent to the suffering of His saints?” we don’t need to fear people and sugarcoat the gospel of sins and forgiveness. Instead, we rely on the Holy Spirit to intelligently and graciously encourage people to find out what a faithful saint’s reaction would be during the suffering from the testimonies of those who endure hardship to the end in the whole wide world. This is what I observed from African and Chinese persecuted Christians who still spread God’s love and love their enemies.
- Mr Ishii said he was aghast when he heard that an American pastor said hell is where a non-believer goes after death. Mr Ishii said, “This type of insensitivity has turned many Japanese people into adversaries of God.” I agree with Mr Ishii that only God truly knows if a person has a genuine faith to go to heaven. In Asia, many people believe in various religions and think that they don’t need Jesus in order to be saved because they worship gods and try to do good. On one hand, telling the truth could be seen as insensitive because it hurts people’s pride. On the other hand, it could also be sensitive to the real danger of one’s spiritual death.Pastor John Piper wrote in his book, Jesus, The Only Way To God: “The world will tell you that you are arrogant, not loving, if you spread the message of Jesus’s saving work as the only way to God. But God calls it love … Oh, how we need to let the Bible define what love does! … Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, who works through the word of the gospel of Christ (1 Peter 1:23-25), there is no faith and no new birth and no salvation. This is why repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations’ (Luke 24:47).” (Note 5)
I painfully remember that I did not tell my uncle, sick with cancer, about where he would go after death without believing in Jesus because I worried that he might feel scared. Shortly, he was sent home from the hospital without the hope of living. While he was still alive, his family dressed him with a funeral shroud to keep his muscles from getting too stiff to wear it after he died.
I was in grief to know that tears rolled down from his eyes while lying on the bed waiting for the unknown destiny. Sadly, I was not around and could not tell him to receive Jesus. Even today, I hope in the bottom of my heart that my uncle did listen to the gospel tape I left him and received Jesus as his Savior in his mind. Since then, I would rather risk being shamed or rejected by people than fail to tell them the gospel in love.
I believe God chose His anointed saints and will bring them back to one holy nation (Refer to 1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, my heavenly identity as a citizen of God’s kingdom is higher than my earthly identity as a citizen of the USA and Taiwan with Japanese blood.
God sent Ezekiel to open his mouth and say to people, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says, ‘Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.’ “(Ezekiel 3:27)
It’s only God who can soften every sinner’s heart to listen. Meanwhile, we shall be like Ezekiel to “listen carefully and take to heart all the words God speaks to us,” (Ezekiel 3:10) as we share His truth in love. For only the truth shall set each of us free from the trap of sins and stronghold of evil darkness. (John 8:32)
How do you answer the question: Where is God when there is suffering?
Note2: Pastor Marre Ishii’s article: http://www.wnd.com/2017/01/what-promoters-of-silence-wont-tell-you/
Note3: What Japanese history lessons leave out: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21226068
Note4: Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-33362387