The question de jour for us right now is: So…what are you going to be doing in Japan? I have to admit that I struggle for a good answer right now, one that is not too vague. leaving the person asking to wonder if I even answered his question and not too specific, leaving him wishing he never had asked.
No offense to missionaries, but in describing ourselves, I hope to avoid the “M” word completely. Not that I don’t admire and value the work that missionaries have done and are doing, but the word comes with so much historical and religious baggage these days, that once you tell people you are a missionary, they start thinking of religious intolerance, cultural imperialism and a number of other half formed facts about the work missionaries have done throughout the course of history. (Worse still, they imagine a couple of happy fellows in white short sleeve shirts pulling up in their driveway on bicycles that send them scurrying into the house for cover.)
Our organization, JEMS (Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society), has a very simple vision: “Jesus for every Japanese, Jesus everyday.” I love our vision because it says some very important things that everyone, not just Japanese people, and not just non-Christians, should know about Christianity.
Jesus is a person, not a religion. We aren’t going to Japan to bring them religion. Japan has quite enough religion as it is, probably too much, if you define religion as a set of traditions and rules that one must follow to be considered “good” and live without fear of something “bad” happening to you. Jesus is a person, whose life on earth was lived perfectly as an example to all mankind and whose voluntary death on the cross was done as a perfect sacrifice for the wrongs we have done. The only “rule” of Christianity is faith in Jesus, that he is whom he claimed to be. Anything else we do, including moving to another country to share about Jesus, is what we choose to do in response to the love of God through Jesus.
Jesus is for everyone. There is a big misconception, not completely unfounded, that Christianity is a Western religion. While this is definitely untrue (after all, Jesus was a Jew and Christianity began in the Middle East and spread through both Europe and Asia from there), the entanglement of Christianity with Western culture, particularly American, is difficult to unravel. That’s why I like the idea that we aren’t bringing Christianity to Japan. We are bringing the story of Jesus, also known as the gospel, to the Japanese people. Everyone should have an opportunity to know who Jesus is and decide for themselves if he is worthy to be believed. But the fact is the majority of Japanese people, even in the largest metropolitan areas, do not have an accurate depiction of who Jesus Christ is.
“Jesus everyday” is a manta we could all live by. It’s become a bit of a cliche, but I think the best thing any Christian could do when they wake up in the morning is spend a few minutes pondering this question: “What would Jesus do today?” It’s not a question of “What would I do if I were Jesus?” but “What would Jesus do if he were me?” In other words, if Jesus had my career, my location, my material goods, what would he do today? If we answered this question each day with brutal honesty and actually did what Jesus would do, what a huge difference it would make in the world. Because Jesus wouldn’t walk by the homeless woman begging for change in the subway station; he would stop and talk to her and give her some dignity. Jesus wouldn’t spend his whole day trying to make himself look good to his manager at work; he would look for ways to help others succeed. Jesus wouldn’t fall asleep on the sofa watching a baseball game (this hits home for me); he would spend time building up his family and leading them by example to be godly people.
So back to the question “What are you going to be doing in Japan?” In the most basic sense of the question, we will be living out the vision of JEMS: Jesus for every Japanese, Jesus everyday. When I wake up each morning, I want to ask the question, “What would Jesus do today?” and then go and do it. I want to share the love of Jesus with every person I meet and paraphrasing Saint Augustine, when necessary, use words. It is not necessary to be a master of a language to show love and compassion to people.
Yes, I actually do have a plan beyond wandering around Tokyo sharing the love of Jesus with people. I know many people, particularly my parents, would be uncomfortable if I didn’t have any plans beyond that. But the details of that plan are another blog entry unto themselves.
Jayne will be interviewing to serve at the Christian Academy of Japan for a position much like what she does now, helping kids with speech and language issues and learning disabilities (and their families). This is a role that has been needed for a long time at CAJ and she is thrilled to be able to fill the need. We know of friends who were serving abroad who chose to come back to America because help for children with learning disabilities is not easily found in many countries, including Japan. In a larger sense, Jayne desires to contribute to a positive change in the stigma that Japanese culture has toward those with mental and learning disabilities. If Jesus was in her position, that’s what he would do.
So there you have it. That’s what we’re going to be doing in Japan for the next few years. Hopefully, as you follow our exploits, you’ll get a better sense of HOW we are doing what we are doing.