By: Paul H. Ueki
Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This commandment is from the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9). For Jewish people, their Lord is one God. There is no other god besides Him. If they worship other gods, this commandment demands repentance and returning to their God.
When Japanese Christians read this commandment, they understand it literally. It demands their wholehearted devotion and love. Because of the difference of the concept of God/god, it seems to them that this commandment does not necessarily emphasize worshiping one God. In Japan there are grounds for many gods. For ordinary people, it is not strange to go to different religious places in their lives. When a baby was born, parents take the baby to a Shinto shrine and pray for its healthy growth. When a couple plan their wedding, they seek for a beautiful chapel and ask a pastor to marry them. When a person dies, his family asks Buddhist priests to perform a funeral. Japanese culture is tolerant of many gods and various religions. Therefore they have tacit consent not to talk about their faith in their social life. It is only accepted in private talks.
When a person becomes a Christian, he renounces such religious life and believes in the one Living God. He starts enjoying his new life and Christian fellowship in his church. In the course of time this new-born Christian faces several questions about his behavior among the people of other faiths. Is it right for him to attend a wedding in Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple? Should he follow the actions that other attendants do, such as burning powdered incense at a Buddhist funeral?
Japanese Christians are often caught between unshakable “Christian behavior” and other behaviors friendly to those of other faiths. If the behavior of a Christian is impolite or offensive to the non-Christians, they may close their hearts to Christ and His followers. Sincere believers wonder how they should behave. Therefore Christian leaders have to show some lights that will help each Christian find his behavior or a guideline, though there is no general guideline. These things give lights.
- When people of other faiths come to a church, what do we expect them to do in singing or in prayer? When they join us in singing or in prayer, do we think they become Christians?
- “Our witness is to be marked by ‘gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.’ We therefore reject any form of witness that is coercive, unethical, deceptive, or disrespectful.” (The Cape Town Commitment, Part II C-1)
- “We must also distinguish between advocating the rights of people of other faiths and endorsing the truth of their beliefs. We can defend the freedom of others to believe and practice their religion without accepting that religion as true.” (ibid. Part II C-6)