TOKYO – Japan rose like a phoenix out of the ashes of World War 2 to become the world’s third-largest economy and a leading producer of in-demand passenger vehicles. The country has taken a back seat over the last several decades as other developing nations have become giants of industry and technology.
Yet millions of Japanese people are still mired in the mysticism of the Shinto and Buddhist cultures that dominated the island nation for centuries. Only 1.5 percent of the population profess to be Christians. With over 120 million in the country without the Gospel, the Japanese constitute the largest unreached people group in the world.
Nearly three-quarters of the people in Japan consider themselves “unreligious.” They practice a combination of ancestral veneration, reverence for nature, and personal ritual purity. But, according to Prayercast, these practices are not associated with what we would consider being religious beliefs.
“The average Japanese person today practices a syncretistic mix of Shinto, Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, Atheistic, and even Christian beliefs and practices. A person may be dedicated as a baby at a Shinto shrine, wed at a Christian church, and have their funeral at a Buddhist temple. For the Japanese, this is not contradictory; it is their cultural identity.”
Most Japanese believe that there is no Creator and that there is no absolute Truth. Like those described in Romans chapter one, they worship the creation created by the Creator who they do not believe exists.
Our American mindset makes it difficult for many of us to understand the worldview where culture is so deeply rooted and conformity to it is so highly valued. Yet, they are the chains that continue to bind the Japanese people in the darkness of unbelief.
Then there is that cultural misunderstanding that Christianity is a product of Western culture. To that end, there is new hope for the spread of the Gospel of Japan.
According to OMF, more than 700,000 Chinese immigrants now live in Japan. Many of them are Christians who have come to escape persecution in their home country just a short distance across the Sea of Japan.
Chinese churches are cropping up around the country. Could it be that the Lord is using a contingent of unexpected evangelists from the East to be the best representatives of the Blessed Hope?
It may seem an odd way to reach the Japanese, but then, the Lord’s ways are higher than our ways – and they are often markedly different. We would not have picked Saul of Tarsus to become Paul the Apostle, and we probably would not have asked Gideon to downsize his army before going into battle.
Let us pray together for an awakening to the Gospel and the saving grace of Jesus Christ in Japan. Let us pray that the Lord will send specially-equipped workers into this unique field that is ripe unto harvest.
Japan needs Jesus and Jesus loves the Japanese.
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