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Watch Your Tone With Jesus!

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Watch Your Tone With Jesus!

Shinsuke Ohtomo, a pastor at Jesus Lifehouse International Church in Tokyo and “friend we have yet to meet”, has taken on the challenge of translating the Bible in way that is unique to the Japanese language. Because Japanese uses several different words for relating to others based on things like age, social status or tone, it is a very rich yet complex language when expressing relationships between people. Original translations of the Bible to Japanese used one very formal type of expression for the way Jesus related to others. However, we know that depending on the situation, Jesus used very different styles of communication: harshly to the hypocritical religious leaders, persuasively to the masses, and compassionately to those seeking him in faith, just to name a few.

Though often overlooked, linguistics plays an important role in how we relate to gospel. A great novel like Les Miserables would not play out nearly as well if it were written by an author of technical manuals rather than Victor Hugo. In Japanese, with its vast richness of vocabulary for expressing relationships between people, linguistics become even more important. This is another example of how contextualization helps reveal the fullness of the gospel in the heart language of the people it is being addressed to.

Happy Birthday(s)

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

– Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

[He] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

-Matthew 25:34-40


Dr. Martin Luther King was certainly correct to say that our lives truly begin when we can put the needs of those around us, especially those of the disenfranchised, above our own selfish wants and concerns. What he left out (perhaps intentionally given his secular audience), was the eternal reward of a life of service to others. Of course, we cannot simply serve others and expect salvation, as that would be salvation by good works, but rather our faith in Jesus should manifest itself in our lives in our attitude toward those in need.

Happy birthday Dr. King. The fight against prejudice and hate continues in this country and throughout the world, but your example 45 years ago set the stage for battle.

And happy birthday to my daughter, who I am so proud of and so proud that she can share a birthday with a man like Dr. King.