Did you know that Japan is the 2nd largest unreached nation in the world? Less than one percent of Japanese people are Christians (as I discussed in my post, “One Percent of True Happiness”.) But why? Japan isn’t a closed, communist country like North Korea or China. Christianity isn’t outlawed. Today I want to dive into a few reasons why Japan might be so unreached.
1. Culture and Tradition
Japan is a nation with one of the oldest cultures in the world. For about 250 years Japan didn’t allow any outsiders to come in. Christianity was outlawed claiming it was a foreign religion that would bring in a colonial takeover. As a result, Christians in Japan during the Edo Period (roughly 1600-1860 AD) were severely persecuted, forced to walk long distances barefoot, and nailed to crosses. Everyone was forced to step on pictures of Jesus and Mary (called Fumie) in order to find the hidden Christians.
Even when Christianity was finally legalized, the Japanese people still held tightly to their background, to the Japanese traditions, and tried to stay true to their ancestors and their long-kept traditions. Christianity to Japanese people is a western religion, not something that belongs in Japan. They do not realize that Christianity is about their Creator God’s amazing love for them that has no bounds!
Japanese hold to their ancient customs, like praying to idols, going to graves to pray for souls to go to heaven, and so on. It’s really hard for Japanese people to let go of their traditions and culture, because, really, becoming a Christian is in many ways receiving a new culture, a new identity. Being from a group culture, many people aren’t ready for that.
2. Don’t Want to Stand Out
Japanese people often worry about what other people think about them. Many Japanese are worried about what their friends and family would think if they converted to a foreign religion. Suddenly, their lives would change and they might be excluded or disowned. They would “have to” go to church on Sundays. They couldn’t pray at the temples and shrines, and they probably wouldn’t go to late-night bar parties. They think that they could no longer go to most traditional Japanese events. In other words, becoming a Christian in Japanese means taking up one’s cross and dying to many things.
Many people are afraid that people won’t love them, people would stop being their friends.
Now, these were only a couple reasons I came up with. I’m sure there are more,
But wait. This post wasn’t made so people would get discouraged. This wasn’t a post that blared, “Japanese Can’t Become Christians”.
Missionaries and Christians in Japan still need to stand up for people like this. They need to help them see a better way. They need to love them. No matter how hard. It’s worth it. These precious lives need to know the love of Jesus, the power of his forgiveness, and they need to find the sure hope of eternal life in heaven we have in Christ!
My parents, as missionaries in Japan, know these things that Japanese tend to hold onto, but that doesn’t stop them. They come alongside of their neighbors to share the light of God’s love for them.
They all need to know God’s great love!
Please continue to pray for missionaries in Japan, so that people here can know His great love and grace for them.