Someone sent a question to my inbox a question about what I didn’t like about Japan. I replied that I loved Japan, but that the thing that bothered me was the lack of forgiveness. Japan is not a Christian country even though the people are kind and humble. I told them that they should read the novel by Aiko Miura called Shiokari pass, and it would help them understand the bad attitudes in Japan toward Christianity. It is a story of a young man who was raised by a grandmother because the grandmother found out the young man’s mother was a Christian and threw her out of the house and took her son away from her and raised her son to hate her because she was a Christian. I also explained where this deep hatred of Christianity had come from.
It seems that when Christianity was first introduced to Japan, it was by the Portuguese. There were Portuguese Catholic missionaries that went into Japan. Christianity was very compatible with the Japanese way of thinking and life style, so they were initially accepted whole heartedly. These Portuguese Catholic missionaries were so accepted that they made it into the upper echelons of society, even to the king’s court. This gave the Portuguese government an idea. They decided to take over Japan. The plot was brewing, and they were using their missionaries to spy for them. The Japanese figured out what was going on. They threw the Portuguese missionaries out of Japan. They put up signs everywhere saying, “If you see a Christian, kill him.” Wide spread Christian persecution ensued. They tied people to crosses and put them out in the waves of the ocean to die. They hung people upside down and lowered them into pits of dung. They told people if they didn’t give up Christianity, they would kill their kids, and the Japanese Christians wouldn’t give Christianity up. There became a contempt of Christianity in Japan. It is many, many years later now, but it has caused a prejudice against Christians in Japan.
The Japanese actually like the Christian life style. I knew a woman who wanted to marry a Christian because she said she knew Christians were kind and pure, but she would never become a Christian herself.
However, there is an aspect to the Japanese culture that shuns people. If someone is mad at you in Japan, they just don’t talk to you, and to the Japanese, the silence comes across louder than being yelled at. They may not talk to you for the rest of your life. For example, I knew a girl who became a Christian, and her mother and father knew, but they refused to talk to her because they disapproved. They lived in the same house, and it hurt the daughter immensely. They would never even acknowledge that their daughter was a Christian. Finally, in a conversation I was having with the mother, she told me that her daughter was a Christian, but that her and her husband weren’t. The daughter was overjoyed when she heard that her mother had acknowledged she was a Christian! When my Japanese son in law decided he wanted to be a Christian, he really hesitated because he was afraid he would be thrown out of his family. He was overjoyed when his parents didn’t throw him out of the family for becoming a Christian because that happens quite often in Japan. He knew the character of the Japanese people, but he loved Christianity.
A Japanese Buddhist wrote back to me and said that God can’t be forgiving because he throws people into Hell, but in Buddhism, you get more and more chances. I explained to him that if you accept Christ and follow his ways, you are not thrown into Hell, and that in Buddhism, if you mess up in this life, you could come back as a bug or a mouse in the next life. In Buddhism, it is never ending, and you just have to keep trying life after life to reach Nirvana. However, Christ died for your sins, so we don’t have to come back life after life. When we die, we can live in Heaven.
He came back telling me that God destroyed the world with a flood, so he can’t be forgiving. I told him he didn’t understand the nature of God. You see, God created us and loves us. However, God is holy, and he is so holy, he can’t even look at sin. When he created us, he gave us free will hoping we would love him. He didn’t want us to be robots, but man chose not to follow God. When the flood came, the people on the earth had become very wicked. They were murdering, stealing, lying, cheating, sleeping with everyone, etc. Only Noah was doing what he should be doing, and it upset God beyond compare. He was sorry he had made man. He talked to Noah and told him he was going to send a flood to destroy the earth. It is like if you are writing a letter, and it doesn’t come out right, so you decided to wad it up and throw it away. God wanted Noah to build a big boat to save himself, him family, and the animals. God wanted Noah to warn the other people and gave them a chance to change. However, the people refused to listen to Noah. They laughed at him. God sent the flood, and afterwards, he was so sorry he did it because he didn’t want to see all those people die because he loved them. He sent a rainbow to remind mankind that he would never destroy the earth by water again.
After the flood, eventually, people got cocky. They thought they were smarter than God. They had learned a lot and decided to all get together and build a tower up into the Heavens and find God. God knew about their stupidity and lack of humility and decided to confound their languages so they could no longer work together. When he confounded their languages, they drifted apart, and went to all corners of the earth.
One of them went to Korea. His name was Dangun. Dangun brought the knowledge of God to Korea. He built an altar to God that is supposed to be in North Korea somewhere. He not only brought knowledge of God, he brought the people out of the caves. He taught them to build home, raise gardens, comb their hair, and even to eat out of dishes. The Korean people loved him and made him the emperor.
In the meantime, God was making a plan to bring mankind back to himself. He sent the Ten Commandments so people would know what sin was. He sent prophets telling the people that his son was coming and what to look for when he came. Jesus came, taught about God, and then he was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day. God loved mankind so much that he sent his son to die for our sins. He didn’t want us to end up in Hell. He knew when he sent his son what people would do to him. On the third day after Jesus was killed, the tomb was empty, and the stone had been rolled away from the inside of the tomb. For forty more days, he stayed and taught some more. There were many, many witnesses. After 40 days, he rose up into Heaven from the Mountain of Olives, and there were many people there watching. After that, he followers filled the earth with his teachings. They went to all the known world. All but one apostle was killed for their teaching. People don’t let themselves be killed if they know what they are teaching is false. They will give it up before letting someone kill them, but they wouldn’t give up. Christianity was established, and the Bible was compiled.
In Christianity, there is grace and forgiveness. In Buddhism, if you mess up, there is no grace or forgiveness. In Buddhism, you have to get there alone. If you are good enough, you can come back in a better station in the next life, but if not, you come back as a lower form of life, and you just have to keep working until you become perfect, life after life, and then you reach Nirvana. However, in Christianity, we acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. We know that every one of us has done something they shouldn’t have done. God sent Jesus to die on the cross to cover those sins. We can be forgiven in Christianity, but in Buddhism, you can’t be forgiven. In Christianity, we have help to get to Heaven, but in Buddhism, there is no forgiveness, and people have to make it to Nirvana alone if they ever get there.
In Japan, they try to appear perfect, but they have the public self and the private self. That person may look good on the outside, but you don’t know who they really are. They are actually hypocrites. They do a lot of bowing in Japan because it is expected, but it doesn’t mean they feel it inside. In Christianity, we acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. When we decided to change and try to do the right thing and let the blood of Jesus wash our sins away, we became perfect, but not because we are perfect. God grants us perfect as a gift because we are trying. God is holy and can’t look upon sin, but the blood of Jesus covers our sins. When a Christian dies, he can go to Heaven even if he has done things he regrets because he accepted the love of God. He let his sins be washed away and began trying to do the right thing. However, in Buddhism, Buddha didn’t die for anyone’s sins. He also didn’t rise from the grave. If Jesus can rise from the grave, he can show us how. Buddha only teaches the people how to keep trying to be perfect without helping them. Buddha can’t get rid of the people’s sins. Only Jesus could do that.
In the meantime, there was a Dutch sailor in the 1600’s who was headed for Japan. He had a shipwreck and ended up in Korea. In those days, the Koreans didn’t let anyone into Korea nor let anyone out. They were afraid of the outside world because both the Chinese and the Japan were always trying to take them over. They didn’t want people to know they were there, so if you came to Korea, you had to stay. You could never leave. Hammel was the name of the sailor. The people took him from Jeju Island up north to Seoul to meet the emperor. As they traveled through Korea, Hammel listened to one of the Korean holy men. He was telling the story of the Tower of Babel, but there had never been any missionaries to Korea because most countries didn’t even know they existed. Hammel was amazed! After thirteen years, the Koreans finally let him go home.
Later, missionaries came to Korea. When they got off the boat, the told the people there is a God in Heaven who made us and loves us, and the Korean people said, “I know.” Dangun had told them. However, they didn’t know anything about Jesus or the Bible. They were eager to learn.
Buddhism had been in Korea for a long time, but the Korean people eventually rejected it because it was full of hypocrisy. The Buddhist priests taught one thing and did another.
Japan was occupying Korea, and they had been thrown out. There were lots of missionaries and American soldiers who were Christians sent to Korea to protect them. Christianity soared! So many Koreans became Christians that close to 50% of Korea are Christians now. The Korean people aren’t perfect, but you don’t have to be perfect to be a Christian. You have to be trying. You have to accept the grace and forgiveness found in Christianity, and the Korean people are enjoying Christianity. Buddhism is on the decline in Korea because they knew about God before they knew about Buddhism, and they understand that they can be forgiven and live forever with God in the end.
In Japan, they have the Buddhist priest not telling them to be Buddhists because it is right, but because it is the Japanese way. Well, if I went the way my family used to go, I would be going to Hell because as my grandpa put it, he came from wild Indians and horse thieves, but there is a new generation in my family changing their hearts and following Jesus. It is nice to think that the old people had all the answers, but I want forgiveness. I want to go to Heaven. Japan needs to turn around and realize that Buddha can’t help them. Buddha tells them they have to get to perfect on their own, and it is hard to be perfect. They need to realize that we are only human. We mess up, but we can be forgiven for messing up. We don’t have to get to Heaven on our own. Jesus can take us there.