Sekai no Hikari: Light of the World

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Politics and Christianity: Do They Go Together?

        The other day, I was listening to someone talk about politics. Ever met one of those people who go on…and on…and on…and on about it? This was one of those people. It completely ruined my day. Now, I admit that this was partially because this guy was a major liberal who hates Christians. However, it’s also majorly annoying when conservatives get on their high horse.

         Because of this cringe-inducing interaction, I was thinking hard about politics, and what we should do as Christians. I mean, some of us are liberal, and some are conservative, right? Well, I came to a few conclusions about it, and if you disagree with me, that’s perfectly fine.

1) Actually, that’s the first one. Disagreeing about things as Christians IS OKAY. I took a theology class through church, and their most important thing they had to teach was that we do theology irenically, meaning peacefully, without anger or divisiveness. We are all going to disagree about one thing or another. We all are in the same position as human beings trying to discover the truth, and we are told to build one another up in our walk with God. Therefore, unless something is clearly a sin, one is not to force our brand of Christianity on another.

2) Argumentativeness will accomplish nothing. Don’t be the person who talks about politics all the time. There’s a reason people are supposed to avoid politics in polite conversation.

3) Our loyalties are to God first. Don’t try and change God, and don’t put your ideology before God’s. God’s priorities must be ours.

4) If politics destroys our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s not worth it. Debating is fine. In fact, it helps us think. However, if emotions run too high and people get angry, stop.

5) Don’t waste your time on party campaigning and interest groups. Remember, God is the one who chooses rulers. By all means, vote, and if God has called you to politics, go right ahead, but your volunteer time is better spent on a lasting ministry that will touch someone’s life directly.

        One last thought: It’s almost embarrassing to admit when I talk to Japanese people that Americans fight over political issues so much. Politics is keeping too many Christians from being truly effective for God. The fights, denial of our faults, hatred, and annoying Internet comments need to stop. None of that will change someone’s view. God, however, can do so. So when you go out to change the world today, don’t focus on nonessential politics. Instead, be fearless and bold in presenting the one essential: the gospel.

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Amazing Grace

        In my first post, I mentioned Avatar: The Last Airbender as a show that reminds me a lot of Christianity. One of my favorite scenes in the entire show is in the final episode. I’ll post a link to the scene, and a transcription of it, below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Na56wihXMn4

        The characters involved in this part of the show are Zuko, a prince who was banished by his father, and Iroh, his uncle. Here, Zuko is apologizing to Iroh for a lifetime of evil.

<Iroh wakes up and sees Zuko>

Zuko: Uncle, I know you must have mixed feelings about seeing me. But I want you to know, I am so, so sorry, Uncle. I am so sorry and ashamed of what I did. I don’t know how I can ever make it up to you. But I –

<Iroh hugs him>

Zuko: How can you forgive me so easily? I thought you would be furious with me!

Iroh: I was never angry with you. I was sad, because I was afraid you’d lost your way.

Zuko: I did lose my way.

Iroh: But you found it again.

        I think this paints a picture of God’s grace that many of us desperately need to see. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but when we sin, God is not like a harsh taskmaster in the sky. The other day, while doing a project, I came across something describing God as a “homophobic sky fairy.” Whoever wrote that has it all wrong. God is not afraid of anyone’s sin. If we are babies with dirty diapers, He holds us close, because He sees us as being worth enduring the stench of a dirty diaper. Even people who seem beyond redemption, even to the most tolerant person out there, are still valuable to God.

        He grieves over those who have lost their way. For every tear we cry, and for every ounce of energy we expend trying to find our own way, He cries a hundred tears, and devotes his boundless stores of energy to taking all the steps necessary to woo us back to Him. Yet, he leaves the final choice up to us, because he wants us to be free. He loves us with a love that surpasses all boundaries of sin, all laws of this world, and all the burdens of guilt we heap upon ourselves.

        And for those of us who find our way, guided by Jesus, God celebrates, and welcomes back with open arms. He calls us. He says, “Come. I can clean your mess. I can wash your stains. Break your chains. My grace is sufficient.” God is not angry with us. He wants us to return to him. He loves us with an everlasting love.

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Only One

        I have been taking Japanese for a long time. And when I was younger, I learned a song called Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana (One and Only Flower in the World). It is by a Japanese kayokyoku(popular music) band called SMAP. The song is not Christian, but the message is true, and everyone should take to heart what the song has to say.

        It is a long song, so I will not post all the lyrics, but the song is basically about someone walking into a flower shop and meeting someone who gives him insight into the nature of humanity.

Here’s a link to the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JFbcAriZkE

Here are some sections of the lyrics, with translation:

Sore na noni bokura ningen wa, doushite kou mo kurabetagaru? Hitori hitori chigau noni sono naka de, ichiban ni naritagaru. (In spite of this [how flowers don’t compare themselves], why do us humans always want to compare ourselves to each other? Although we are each different, we want to become the best.)

Sou sa, bokura wa sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana, hitori hitori chigau tane wo motsu, sono hana wo sakaseru koto dake ni, isshoukenmei ni nareba ii. (It’s true, we are each a flower there is only one of in the world. We each carry different seeds, and we only have to try our best to make those flowers bloom.)

Chiisai hana ya ookina hana, hitotsu toshite onaji mono wa nai kara, number one ni naranakute mo ii, motomoto tokubetsu na only one. (Small flowers and big flowers, for one flower, there is not one that’s the same, so it’s okay if you don’t ever become number one. You are the very special only one.)

        Well, it’s the slightest bit cheesy, but it’s very true. Humans, especially me, want to be the best. But God created you with “flowers” and “seeds” that are uniquely yours, and He has carved out a unique niche for you on this earth. No other person could do quite as well as you the job He’s prepared for you to do.

        This also reminds me of a verse in Matthew where Jesus is telling us not to worry, for the flowers of the field are cared for by God. In the same way, we should not look to the world for value, for we are given value by God. You don’t ever have to become number one. God sees you as a very special only one.

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The Victory

God: “Where, O death, is your victory?”

Us: “I’m a loser.”

God: “Where, O death, is your sting?”

Us: “How can I ever be valuable if I don’t achieve success?”

God: “I give you the victory through Jesus Christ.”

Us: “But how? I’m not perfect.”

        This is a dialogue that appears all too frequently in my mind, and I am writing this to myself as much as to anyone else. 1 Corinthians 15: 55-57 is my all time, ultimate favorite verse. It has to do with specific events in my life’s journey, but also, it has to do with my competitive drive.

        I love to win. In fact, I feel bad when I don’t, and recently, I lost a competition for what seemed to be the umpteenth time. In the midst of my major discouragement, though, I thought of this verse. “He gives us the victory…” Now this most certainly does not mean that we will win everything. But the neat thing about this verse is that God doesn’t just win the victory and we reap the rewards. He actually credits the victory to us, in the same way that the righteousness of Christ is credited to us.

        So when life’s defeats have gotten you down, remember that YOU have won the ultimate victory over death. Humans have sought immortality for centuries and failed, but because of Jesus, you have achieved it. And you are not doomed to live out immortality with evil inside you, dragging you down. No, every minute of your life can be filled with light and love, because of Jesus. You haven’t just tasted victory, you’ve swallowed it whole. Victory is yours.

 

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Dying to Apologize

        So one thing that I fervently believe about the Gospel is that there are already seeds of it in every culture and subculture out there. It doesn’t always have to be “planted” by Christians. Because we are all human, created in the image of God, we have all received something called general revelation. That essentially means that God has revealed little parts of His truths to all of us, through nature, other people, our own nature, etc.

        One example of this is in Japan. Endo Shusaku, a famous Japanese Christian, often likened Japan to a swamp in terms of ability to accept Christianity. A swamp is not a very favorable environment for seeds to grow in. In the same way, Japan is not a favorable environment for Christianity to grow in, and history has aptly demonstrated this. And for a long time, I thought that Japan’s worldview was almost entirely in opposition to Christianity. However, I was talking to my Japanese teacher one time about Japan’s strange fascination with death. She quoted to me an expression that she thought explained that fascination:

死でおわびます=apologize with (one’s) death

        She said that death, to the Japanese, was a way to say sorry for what they had done wrong, and that is why they have such a high rate of suicide. I immediately saw the connection. The Japanese think they have to apologize for their own sin, but what they don’t see is that someone has already apologized for them! Jesus became a human himself, yet lived without sin, and thus he was qualified to apologize for all of humanity. And that he did, giving the whole world, including the Japanese, the option to have life, and have it to the full.

        Since then, I’ve thought about it, and the Japanese are an incredibly communal people. Sound familiar? They, in an ideal situation, would probably do a better job of Christian community than most Americans. The so-called “swamp” is actually a verdant forest, deep down inside. We just can’t give up on the Japanese. We can’t give up on anyone.

        God has given me a heart for the Japanese people, and I intend to do something for God and Japan, when the opportunity arises. Who has God given you a heart for? Who elicits your compassion? I guarantee, there is hope for them, and there is a plan for them, and God will use you, if you are willing.

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Inner Fire

        I thought I’d start off by telling you a little bit about my inspiration for the name of this blog. I started with the idea of fire. Somehow, fire (or light) is linked to purpose, hope, and drive, especially in Christian contexts. I got that idea from two sources: an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a song.

        Avatar is not the most “Christian” show in the world, but I do find that it has elements to it that remind me a lot of Christianity. In the episode, one of the characters speaks of his “inner fire” and how he’d lost it when he changed sides, but then regained it.

        The song that inspired me is one of my current favorites, called “The Lost Get Found,” by Britt Nicole. The lyrics are:

Hello my friend
I remember when you were
So alive with your wide eyes, then the light that you had in your heart was stolen
Now you say that it ain’t worth stayin’
You wanna run but you’re hesitatin’
I’m talkin’ to me

Don’t let your lights go down
Don’t let your fire burn out
Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe
Why don’t you rise up now?
Don’t be afraid to stand out
That’s how the lost get found
The lost get found

So when you get the chance, are you gonna take it
There’s a really big world at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to change it
There’s a girl on the streets, she’s cryin’
There’s a man whose faith is dying
Love is calling you

Don’t let your lights go down
Don’t let your fire burn out
Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe
Why don’t you rise up now?
Don’t be afraid to stand out
That’s how the lost get found
The lost get found

Why do we go with the flow?
Why take the easier road?
Why are we playin’ it safe?
Love came to show us the way
Love is a chance we should take
I’m movin’ out of the way

Don’t let your lights go down
Don’t let your fire burn out
Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe
Don’t let your lights go down
Don’t let your fire burn out

Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe
Why don’t you rise up now?
Don’t be afraid to stand out
That’s how the lost get found
The lost get found

So when you get the chance
Are you gonna take it
There’s a really big world at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to change it

        So you can see how that inspired the naming of this blog. I figured that as a Christian, my “inner fire” comes from Jesus. And it is my duty and privilege as a Christian to light up the world with my inner fire. That led me to the name of this blog, and the Bible verse, which is one of my favorites.

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