February 25, 2917

Exodus 6:9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.

As Jesus recognized, people have to be emotionally and spiritually prepared in order to take in what their physical ears are hearing. (Mark 4:9 and many more) Context can be almost everything at times. The same words spoken in one situation will be received as meaning something entirely different in another situation. This is something practically everyone has experienced, but we often fail to think about it and grasp what is happening. Even such nuances as inflection can have a drastic impact on meaning for the hearer, whether the speaker intended it or not. The classic illustration is the sentence, “I didn’t see him shoot her.” Depending on which word is stressed, the meaning can be all over the place. (That’s why mechanical recordings are far more reliable than court stenographers in recording testimony.) This certainly applies in communicating the Gospel. If the person to whom we are speaking has no framework in which to place the words they are hearing, they might as well be in a different language. God’s truth is absolute, but it needs to be expressed in ways that can be grasped and received for it to be effective.

This is of course of utmost importance to me, since I minister in Japan. Having been born and raised here, words per se wouldn’t seem to be a problem, but the issue is what those words mean beyond what the dictionary might say. Even the word that is used for God, kami, has very different meanings depending on cultural context. (I’ve just finished reading a book devoted to that very issue.) Yesterday I saw the movie, Silence. Quite apart from what the original author, Endo, intended to convey, or what the director, Scorsese, intended to portray, one thing that came across to me was that the Gospel must be incarnated, made flesh, in those who proclaim it. The saddest thing about the book and the movie is that some of those who actually were living out the Gospel failed to recognize they were doing so, and they gave up, having a distorted understanding of what salvation is all about. From the time I came to Omura I have been telling people I didn’t come to teach them a religion, I came to introduce them to a Savior. That is as true today as it was 35 years ago. I need to let the Lord open my eyes to how the Gospel is being received, or not, through me, and let Him give me the words and actions that will be most effective in communicating the love of the Father to those who haven’t acknowledged it.

Father, Endo and Scorsese were very negative about Christianity in Japan, but You are far greater. Thank You for those who have received and believed Your Gospel. Thank You for raising up through me others who are likewise committed to communicating the Gospel. They have a greater likelihood of success than I do, since they have the same cultural context as those to whom they speak. Help me be faithful to live out as well as speak the Gospel, so that as many as will may repent, believe, and be saved, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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